Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company, discusses how social media can enhance CSR engagement
The path of business sustainability is a journey. And what makes up a journey? Experiences. So too are the experiences shared by your guest at hotel destinations. How well do your guests understand your sustainability initiatives? Do they know what CSR means to your hotel?
High level sustainability concepts are universal and easier to understand. However, what is compelling is the expression of how an individual or a company embraces those sustainability concepts to deliver results. We're all captivated by the unique sustainability experiences but equally important is its delivery and expression. But most still find CSR and sustainability to be elusive.
Part of the challenge is the definition of sustainability and CSR. When you think of 'sustainability' what comes up for you? It is so big and broad in scope that it is difficult to grasp? Or, is any one definition of it too small or limiting? Now, imagine how equally confusing this might be to a hotel guest? In general, there is confusion over exactly what is meant by 'corporate social responsibility' or 'sustainability'. CSR and sustainability encompasses environmental sustainability, but it also includes such concerns as employee relations, waste management, community relations, water management, and diversity issues. Many topics of which are of interest to stakeholders determining their next vacation spot.
Social media marketing has proven to be an innovative and effective way to address two of the biggest hurdles around sustainability: defining what it is and providing the means and channels for sharing sustainability experiences.
There are a multitude of benefits to communicating your hotel's definition of CSR and sustainability. Articulating a more precise definition of CSR and sustainability transforms the conversation beyond a general 'green' mindset and opens a doorway for elevated stakeholder engagement around topics that are of keen interest, as in waste management, energy efficiency, and responsible care of pristine destinations.
Furthermore, social media, although a relatively recent phenomenon, is becoming an essential tool for value creation in sustainable business, and within all businesses, an increasingly important part of any marketing and client base development platform. The perception of social media marketing has shifted quickly—no longer viewed as a trendy or passing fad, having a flexible and well-managed presence has become a must for any business seeking to secure a place in both the traditional and digital marketplace. What could once be accomplished by a traditional website now needs to be supplemented by a robust and responsive utilization of the tools social media engagement offers.
Navigating this strange, new world can be quite confusing at first. With new tools and strategies changing the way the business world communicates and exchanges information, social media is becoming the transparent, engaging, competitive advantage that business sustainability delivers.
For starters, the use of social media collaboration technologies can help organizations break down silos and facilitate knowledge sharing across business units, corporate functions and stakeholders. Social media provides individuals, communities, businesses, and non-government organizations the ability to connect with business in meaningful discussion from anywhere in the world in real time - and around CSR topics of interest. As a result, many businesses have already realized value by incorporating social media into traditional business processes including marketing, sales, PR, customer support, and product development.
How can hotels benefit from social media marketing to engage in CSR conversations?
Begin with a Clear Vision: What are your social media goals? Is it to increase website/ blog traffic? Promote brand image? Communicate and engage on CSR/ sustainability related topics? Acquire new or returning visitors? Clearly identify your traditional sales objectives combined with your sustainability metrics and design a social media marketing strategy that delivers results to both.
Identify Stakeholders and Online Communities: Stakeholders are a bit easier to identify, but online communities can be theme based and centered on sustainability concepts such as recycling, CSR, water, energy, or waste management. Or, they may be geographically based. Consider shareholders, partners, employees, customers, suppliers, local communities, and NGO's. What are the sustainability and CSR topics your stakeholders care about most?
Social Media is an ‘Always-On’ Platform: This implies being present to the ongoing conversation: Listening, contributing to the conversation, providing timely feedback, and incorporating that information into products, services, and ongoing dialog.
The distribution of CSR information to effectively communicate sustainability successes is becoming a more active dialog. Stakeholder feedback is being used to solve problems and drive innovation. It is also an opportunity to amass trust in your business sustainability efforts. Use it to increase eco awareness of your hotel’s social ethics, environmental concerns, and philanthropic deeds. Keep stakeholders informed using openness and transparency as keys to establishing trusting relationships. Let customers, suppliers, investors and the public know they are dealing with a company that acts responsibly.
Julie Urlaub works with clients to powerfully engage in sustainability related issues and stakeholder communications in the social media space to help businesses maximize sustainability strategies and to communicate how their sustainability strategies are making a difference in their business and our world. For more information go to www.TaigaCompany.com