Research Paper Analyzes the Use of Social Media in Corporate Social Responsibility

The Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies released Wired Workforce, Networked CSR, a research paper on the use of social media in Corporate Social Responsibility. Written by Howard Greenstein, Heyman Center adjunct lecturer of the Harbrooke Group, and Tom Watson of CauseWired, the research was sponsored by the JK Group.

The white paper, released at the JK Group’s Forum on Philanthropy, covers the social and digital media tools used by companies including Microsoft, Pfizer, Western Union Foundation, Pepsico, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, UnitedHealth Group, and Yahoo! for connecting with employees, gathering input, sharing valuable news and information with communities, and connecting with stakeholders using many of the popular tools for social media, including Facebook and blogging.

Some conclusions and recommendations from the paper:
• Sharing is at the heart of social media, as online users in 2011 are rarely one click away from being able to communicate their interests and passions with their networks of friends and contacts. However, companies are still in an early adopter stage for the use of social media in Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Philanthropy programs. CSR professionals are more comfortable in internal use of social media tools, typically waiting on their marketing colleagues to test the social media waters for them.

• There is a wide range of social media strategies used to develop employee involvement at some of the largest companies in America, ranging from intranet tools that get employees to vote for or support causes to direct encouragement of employee involvement with Facebook campaigns for corporate foundations.

• Employees appreciate choice and democratic participation. They get more involved when they have the ability to influence outcomes by their participation.

• Formal feedback loops for the use of social media in CSR are the exception rather than the rule.

• There are certainly different levels of commitment available for companies looking to test the effectiveness of social media programs from intranet-based tools to vast external efforts and everything in-between.

• Partnerships can help leverage the social media outreach effectiveness and limit company’s expense and exposure.

“Many of our students are working professionals in philanthropy, CSR, foundations and small nonprofits, and we want to supply them with the tools and best practices that they can use to advance their careers and their professionalism in the always-changing and expanding world of philanthropy,” said Doug White, Heyman Center academic director.

“There isn’t a lot of research around the impact of social media on corporate philanthropy but yet there are lots of questions,” said Brad Galle, CEO, JK Group. “This paper is the beginning of our research into key topics, and we hope it provides a roadmap of where companies are going in adopting social media tools and serves to open the discussion to other ideas. “

Wired Workforce, Networked CSR can be downloaded at