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Why Corporate Social Responsibility Needs User Generated Content

Trust in corporations across all verticals is at an all time low. To be successful today companies need to be about more than profits. Companies that put corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the heart of their business strategies, by participating in initiatives that benefit society, do better. Liz Maw of non-profit Net Impact has said that, “CSR is becoming more mainstream as forward-thinking companies embed sustainability into the core of their business operations to create shared value for business and society.”

Edelman Goodpurpose

Evidence of that can be found in the goodpurpurpose® study, created by Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, to address beliefs around corporate social responsibility, “including commitment to specific societal issues and the expectations of brands and corporations.” Their findings conclude that, “purpose is the new paradigm,” and that consumers were more likely to make a purchase decision and support a brand that actively exhibits their CSR initiatives and corporate values.

How UGC Drives Authenticity For CSR & Non-Profits

How do these companies prove authentic commitment to CSR initiatives? Here at Olapic, we’ve seen time and time again that there’s nothing more credible than visual peer confirmation, as our clients and partners continue to see increases in brand awareness, engagement, and sales when User Generated Content (UGC) is incorporated into their marketing.

The way to prove authenticity for CSR is the same as for the brands themselves: companies from CPG conglomerates to media organizations, should leverage UGC across their CSR initiatives to validate their efforts and demonstrate credibility to their consumers — and one of the world’s biggest CPG companies is already doing just that.

Unilever is actively (and successfully) using UGC to connect with and inform their consumers about their sustainability program and CSR practices housed under the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Promoting branded hashtags such as #BrightFuture and #ReimagineThat across social, Unilever’s CSR team is driving users to their paid and owned properties all of which feature real-life customer testimony and exhibition of social change. In turn, Unilever’s customers are inspired to engage with the content and act on the call to action, sharing their own #SunlightIdeasBook for example, after being inspired by Isabella and her story.

This is a brilliant example of a company effectively using UGC to inspire and create real social change, which in turn proves their integrity to their consumers. While Unilever is a frontrunner in this regard, there are other companies that have started to take baby steps but need a bit more of a push – and this is where Olapic can help.

Your CSR Campaigns Make A Difference, So Does UGC

NBCUniversal, one of the world’s largest media and entertainment companies, created “Green is Universal,” a CSR initiative promoting sustainability commitment across their entire company, “that is focused on bringing an environmental perspective to everything we do, informing and entertaining our audiences while driving more sustainable practices into our own operations.” Across their TV programming, through film production, at their Universal theme parks, in their products, packaging and more, their “Green is Universal” domain is full of information, from helpful “Tips for Going Green” to a list of conservation and recycling initiatives they are doing around their resorts. However, the entire domain is missing visual proof that could give these claims credibility.

Adding branded hashtags and calls to action would better encourage viewers and users to engage with the movement, while in turn promoting peer participation. We as social users all want our fifteen minutes of fame, and there’s nothing about the movement, or even on the website, that encourages user participation.

Add a UGC gallery powered by Olapic, like the example below, and NBCU would find the CSR credibility that they need, the “social proof” from their viewers and users that would in turn lead to overall company increases in engagement, and viewership.

NBCU Green Universal Marketing
Take a look at how a UGC gallery of content collected from #greenisuniversal would look on the homepage

But what happens when a major company, claiming commitment to CSR, suffers a major incident and a subsequent backlash on social?

We all remember the BP oil disaster of 2010. Considered the “largest accidental marine oil spill in history of the petroleum industry,” a massive cleanup response began to clean beaches, wetlands, the gulf and more, but there was “extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and fishing and tourism industries”. And while the use case is clear for companies to use UGC to promote their CSR initiatives, in this case, UGC was BP’s enemy. As the disaster unfolded, users took to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and more to document the events, some even created their own Twitter pages to provide real-time updates and photos.

What BP could have done instead was tap into UGC that documented the cleanup efforts they were taking. The Harvard Business Review writes, “One of the easiest ways to be on the right side of the social media tide is to be proactive – and personal – by listening to feedback and responding in an authentic way.” UGC creates a 1×1 dialogue between brands and consumers, or in this case, a company and it’s audience. By listening to social conversations as they were happening in real time, BP would have be able to start rebuilding their brand and credibility earlier, showcasing social proof, in the form of UGC, that cleanup measures were being taken.

When used effectively, UGC adds credibility and authenticity to a company and brand, especially in those who have company branded CSR efforts, or in the case of BP, companies that need to regain a globally sustainable reputation.

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