Social Media as Value Creation for Sustainable Businesses

image: shared value sustainabily Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, foursquare, blogging, the social web– we no longer just communicate; we interact. In the process, how can the wealth of information being generated by social media help us better understand business sustainability value creation?

From a business perspective, the requirements to build and maintain a sustainable business today are quite different than they were just ten years ago.  The triple bottom line, also known as people, planet, profit is recognized by sustainability professionals as the the three pillars of sustainability.  In essence -a process by which firms manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. Today, companies on the leading edge are evaluating the economic, social and environmental impacts that will ultimately affect profitability.  Green business practices are becoming more and more the norm, as companies both large and small realize the value of integrating eco awareness and sustainability concepts into their operations and business strategies.  However, because sustainability concepts and definitions are still subject to interpretation and debate, the ‘active’ engagement and dialog with stakeholders cannot be overlooked when creating shared value.

The sole focus of social business (or socializing a business and its operations) is value creation. And, value can mean just about anything depending on the maturity of an organization: 

  • Increase in revenue
  • Decreasing calls in the call center
  • Increase in employee morale
  • Employee retention and hiring top talent
  • Cost savings by improving internal business processes
  • Product (and process) innovation
  • Solving “real” business problems

However, specific to CSR communications and business sustainability, social media can aid in value creation in many ways: 

  • The use of social media collaboration technologies can help organizations break down silos and facilitate knowledge sharing across business units and corporate functions.  The Information Week article, What Enterprise Social Success Stories Have In Common, examines the adaptation of social tools and strategies into today’s business improvement efforts. Contrasting the limited success of simple external tool implementation, the true differentiators are implementing social media strategies with purpose.
  • Social media can make CSR more visible. "A Reputation Institute 2011 survey found that a company’s CSR program (in its broadest sense), can be responsible for more than 40% of a company’s reputation, whilst companies with stronger social leadership programs have 55% better internal morale and 43% more efficient business processes."
  • Social media has an emerging role in knowledge management.  Creating bridges between the corporate world and its stakeholders, social media closes the gap on knowledge management and business intelligence. Specifically so if sustainable communications and performance is valued by your stakeholders.  Social media for sustainability communications has become a risk or an opportunity. Monitoring, listening, and dialoguing with key stakeholder in the social space not only offers a competitive advantage but also provides other key ingredients for successful social media engagement

The days of the controlled and scripted press release may be coming to an end.  The propagation of sustainable information to effectively communicate business sustainability successes is becoming a more active dialog.  Social media executed successfully can be a powerful vehicle to build sustainable business communications by engaging with stakeholders.  As we share in our professional consulting practice, social media engagement provides business a global reach.   Besides the marketing a team can do in the local community, a social media marketing strategy allow businesses to have a global following allowing individuals, communities, businesses, and non-government organizations the ability to connect with the business in meaningful discussion from anywhere in the world in real time.

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