Social Media news and comment
February 08 2011
by CCB Team
Comment by Larissa Carter for December / January CCB 115
Over the past few years, social media has become a well-established and widely-used means for campaigners to quickly raise awareness of an issue, rally support, and take action. Platforms like Facebook now represent much more than an easy way to find a long-lost school-friend. The support of a large global or local audience can be enlisted through a well-positioned online campaign, and this audience can be accessed instantly, should a call to action be issued.
Since 2008, we have experienced a recession, numerous examples of corporate malpractice and a major shift in British politics. Through this turbulent time, social media has played an integral role in providing a platform for public reaction, from simply ‘liking’ a Facebook link on a topic or tweeting an opinion, to creating a YouTube video or joining an online group that coordinates demonstrations.
Last year the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico topped the chart of Twitter trends, and the Facebook group ‘Boycott BP’ gained around 30,000 supporters daily. UK Uncut’s Twitter and Facebook campaigns coordinated flash-mobs, pickets and sit-ins that led to the closure of Vodafone, Boots Alliance and Topshop stores following reports of tax avoidance.
Social media is therefore a vital means for expressing public reaction to poor business practice. However, it is also has a positive role to play in helping raise awareness around broader issues such as poverty and conflict, and the potential solutions. The ‘Villages in Action’ web-conference that was held in conjunction with partners including Orange Uganda last November, was a pioneering event that brought together CSR practitioners, the Kikuube community and a global audience to discuss MDGs and the role of business in tackling poverty. Skype has also launched a specialised version of its communications software to enable UNHCR employees to communicate from regions affected by conflict and poverty. The software could also help generate support from companies on specific issues.
Social media can be a blessing for companies by providing a channel to interact with more remote communities and improve stakeholder engagement. On the other hand, social media can also provide the most widely accessible and open mechanism for destroying a company’s reputation, allowing the instant dissemination of information and rallying of negative sentiment against an organisation should it fall short of its commitments and the expectations of its stakeholders.
Larissa Carter was a Consultant at Corporate Citizenship.
Larissa has sadly now left us to further develop her career in corporate social responsibility. To discuss social media please contact Peter Truesdale on email@example.com
Gulf oil spill top tweet
Popular social networking site Twitter released charts in December listing the top trends on Twitter during 2010. Of 25 billion tweets throughout the year, the single most recurring topic was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, considered to be the biggest environmental disaster in US history. The incident saw 11 workers killed and serious environmental damage with estimates that up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day could have been leaking into the sea before the spill was controlled. The news highlights the power of social media regarding corporate reputation and responsibility. The Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods ranked second and third respectively.
Tax avoidance sparks national protests
In response to the coalition’s public sector cuts, UK Uncut has driven public action against companies that it suggests have avoided paying millions of pounds in tax into the British public purse. The use of media such as Twitter, Facebook and a specifically designed iPhone app saw the rapid organisation of protests including pickets, sit-ins and flashmobs throughout December. Companies including Alliance Boots, Vodafone and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia (including the Topshop brand) were targeted across 23 different towns and cities, with closure of stores in six cities. The growing importance of tax related issues and the potential of social media was further highlighted last month when a Vodafone-led Twitter competition with the tag #mademesmile was utilised against the company, resulting in tax avoidance allegations published directly to their website.
Contact: UK Uncut
New app promotes ethical shopping
A new mobile phone app, ‘barcoo’, gives consumers access to a brand’s social, ethical and environmental profile by scanning the barcode of the product they are considering buying, according to creators checkitmobile GmbH. Shoppers can find out the level of a company’s environmental awareness and responsibility, how it treats its staff and how transparently these messages are delivered to the consumer. Partnering with German environmental firm WeGreen, barcoo said it has accessed CSR information on brands from over 20 international institutions that examine and validate social responsibility claims. The app, launched 14 December, is designed to empower ethical consumers, as well as encourage a new generation of ethical shoppers.
Virgin Media launches digital sustainability reporting
Virgin Media launched a purely digital approach to sustainability reporting on 9 December, replacing its annual printed CR and sustainability reports. The new web platform shows people how the company’s sustainability story is evolving, as it happens, through HD video, news stories and social media. It highlights initiatives such as the Virgin Media Pioneers, which provides support and collaboration for young entrepreneurs, and presents films made with the help of Virgin Media employees showing how the company is managing its other sustainability priorities. HD videos and news stories are underpinned by more detailed information, including the targets the company has set itself for improvement.
Contact: Virgin Media
Rural Uganda webstreams business and development event
On 27 November, 500 people came together to talk about business and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in a unique event webstreamed from a small Western Ugandan village. Project Diaspora, in partnership with Business Fights Poverty and Orange Uganda, initiated the Villages in Action conference, providing a platform for the voices of the poor and showcasing the grassroots efforts driving economic development and welfare improvement – all with little or no assistance from international aid organisations. Presenters and panellists were predominantly from the village itself. Video-streaming, Twitter and Facebook were utilised to discuss the contributions of technology, education, farming, entrepreneurship and small businesses to community well being.
Contact: Project Diaspora
NSPCC raises £100,000 from Facebook cartoon campaign
A spontaneous Facebook campaign in December resulted in the NSPCC gaining 50,000 new supporters and around £100,000 in donations in just 48 hours, with the number of visitors to the charity’s website increasing by 500%. The origins of the campaign, which urged people to change their Facebook profiles to a favourite cartoon character in support of ending violence against children, are unclear. Paul Amadi, NSPCC fundraising director, acknowledged the astonishing speed, scale and impact of the social networking campaign, which resulted in an “avalanche” of support across the world.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Partners with Skype
Skype Limited has developed a low-bandwidth version of its popular communications software application to connect United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) field staff in remote regions with their colleagues, family and friends. The new technology is currently available to around 2,000 UNHCR employees in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda. The reach should grow to more than 3,000 by the end of 2011 and will eventually be deployed in 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff. Skype will also begin a campaign to increase public awareness of UNHCR operations and help raise additional funds.
Contact: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Pressure to allow charitable donations via iPhone apps
Various technology companies and sector bodies have put pressure on Apple to allow charitable donations to be made directly through apps, which they say will make the process quicker and easier. Care2, a US-based website that aims to connect people and organisations for common good, set up an online petition which, as of mid-January, had attracted almost 11,000 signatures – far surpassing the original goal of 5,000. Apple’s guidelines state that donations must be collected via a website or in a text message. A charitable donation function was available on the mobile app of the payment processing company PayPal in August, but was removed two months later at Apple’s request.