SOCIAL media are becoming a common information channel used by companies and organisations for informing about their corporate responsibility and philanthropic activities. But contrary to traditional information channels like printed media, TV, radio, PR activities and advertisements, they require a different language and approach.
“Many firms have realised that social media is an important communication tool and that it is very important for them to build relations with people and customers,” Petra Nagyová, spokesperson for the Pontis Foundation, told The Slovak Spectator.
But while corporations in Slovakia have already started to use social media to communicate their philanthropic activities, their potential has yet to be fully realised.
“In general it is possible to say that firms have already entered the social media world through communication of their philanthropic activities, but the response of their target groups is quite weak right now,” Nagyová said.
Marína Smolková, spokesperson for Tatra Banka, observes that communication about corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities via Slovak social media is relatively new.
“This is why standard users have not become fully accustomed to it yet,” Smolková told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Nagyová, companies are sticking to standard public relations principles, “but the world of virtual communications requires more courage and authentic communication. Sometimes it is more effective when a personal experience is not filtered through the censorship of the firm’s PR manager and is conveyed directly by an employee”.
As social media and its usage for communication is a global trend, Pontis dedicated part of its fifth Forum for Corporate Philanthropy, held on November 8 in Bratislava, to this topic. Chris Jarvis and Angela Parker, founders of the Canadian company Realized Worth, talked about the best practise in the use of social media and how corporations can use them to talk about their philanthropic efforts.
Jarvis and Parker recommended using the language of intimacy and relationships instead of the language of motivation and information when communicating corporate responsibility and philanthropic activities.
“When talking about what we are doing about [the] community, what are we trying to say?,” asked Jarvis, adding that the information that 5,000 employees participated in a philanthropic activity is nice, but that is not primarily why corporations are working for the community. “It is to demonstrate the values, mission, the mindset, ethos and character of the company.”
The experiences of companies and organisations in Slovakia confirm the increasing popularity of social media when communicating their CSR and philanthropic activities, and they differentiate whether they are communicating via traditional information channels or social media. As in other countries, Facebook is the most popular platform in Slovakia, while Twitter, Google+, Youtube and LinkedIn also feature.
The Slovak Donors’ Forum uses a whole range of channels, but it regards word-of-mouth as still being the most effective tool.
“Slovaks seems to like to receive information, particularly when it is about something new to them, from people they know,” Lucia Faltinová, the executive director of the Donors’ Forum told The Slovak Spectator. “Apart from this, the media still play an important role in addressing the wider public. When reaching an informed audience, social networks are definitely on the rise as the most effective and interactive channels.”
When assessing the current usage of social networks by corporations to inform about their CSR and philanthropic activities, Faltinová said that social networks are still used more by non-profits than the corporate sector.
“The latter is more accustomed to regular paid services, such as advertising, sponsoring, placement of PR items,” said Faltinová. “It is a pity, for the money they spend on this could be redirected to worthy causes. An active presence on social networks would also help corporate donors to enhance their transparency and reduce their image of exclusivity and clubs, which too many have in Slovakia. It is a matter of changing the culture of consumerism to prudence and long-term investment in people and the community in which they operate. There are, however, already some shining examples.”
The experience of companies is that personal stories catch the most media attention and that social media brings CSR and philanthropic activities closer to people and has the power to get them involved.
“When they like the activity, they share photos and videos, discuss them, try applications or they themselves want to give a helping hand to a good thing,” Andrej Gargulák, head of corporate communications for Slovak Telekom, told The Slovak Spectator.
He offers as an example the application which the company launched for International Week of the Deaf in September, called Hear by Eyes, which enables people to try to read lips, thus showing people what it is like to not be able to hear.
Pros and cons
“The biggest advantage and simultaneously also the disadvantage in the case of social networks is their interactivity, quickness and the possibility of immediate feedback,” said Gargulák. “Visitors automatically expect prompt answers to their questions and the discussion often diverges from the original topic, which is relatively demanding for the administration [of the discussion].”
Faltinová sees as a challenge the need to remember that social networks are merely one part of the whole range of communication tools and ought to be used as such, rather than an exclusive means.
Gargulák highlights the possibility of adding multimedia elements like photos, audio or video or applications when creating content on social networks.
Smolková of Tatra Banka sees as the main difference the possibility to lead a dialogue with the receiver of the information and to obtain feedback. By informing about its CSR and philanthropic activities, i.e. that banking need not only be about profit and that also a bank can help to develop culture and society, the perception of the company’s brand may improve.
Martina Slezáková, the head of the CSR department at VÚB Banka and administrator of the VÚB Foundation, also highlighted the low costs when using social media.
VÚB successfully uses social media to run campaigns and select recipients for its grants. Currently, the public can vote for historical gates and thus decide which of them will receive a grant for reconstruction.
The mobile operator O2 views social media as an information channel enabling better targeting.
“More detailed communication via social media is seen positively,” Martina Jamrichová, spokesperson for Telefónica Slovakia, which provides services under the O2 brand, told The Slovak Spectator. She added that, via profiles on Facebook and Twitter, they increase the chance that information, for example a possibility to apply for a certain grant, will get to the right people.
Corporations and others involved in CSR and philanthropy confirm the need to use different types of language depending on the information channel used.
“Each communication channel entails a different audience, scope and content,” Faltinová said.
“Social networks are more informal, open to mutual communication with the audience, and open to a range of content – from written, to static and dynamic audio-visual formats. They also enable discussion and brief responses, which can be very helpful in promoting our message. Ultimately though, the main difference is the brevity of written messages that is required on social networks.”
Jamrichová agreed, adding that Telefónica Slovakia uses standard tools like PR and newsletters for conveying information and specific data.
“Via social networks we try, with the information about our activities, to inspire people to help us to help others,” said Jamrichová.