Beyond the report: engagement, social media and visual communications (sneak preview offindings of CSR Online Awards Survey 2012)

Some fascinating trends have emerged in this year’s survey of corporate responsibility professionals, sustainability experts and other stakeholders as regards their use of  the web. As we digest and dissect the data, we thought it was time to share a few sneak previews.


With close to 400 responses so far in 2012, we have collected input from more than 1,200 people over five years. This provides us with valuable insights on how the internet is changing the way people engage with companies on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability issues.

(We’ve already given some idea about consumer trends in online CSR communications and about what users hate most and like the most about company websites and online reports.)



Respondents are divided into two camps: non-corporate profiles including journalists, investors, SRI or ESG analysts, sustainability consultants, university teachers, students, NGOs and communications experts. Corporate profiles are mostly CSR managers or directors or their team members. These responses are excluded from the statistics outlined below.


Final piece of news: as of this year, the CSR Online Awards Survey will remain open during the entire year and renewed with a fresh set of questions annually. Our aim is to capture as many responses as possible from a wide range of people and build an on-going monitor of trends in online CSR communications. We’ll also open separate surveys and polls to collect ideas on what questions you’d like to see next year.


If you haven’t already done so, have your say and take the survey (10-15 minutes of your time). If you leave an email address in the final question, we’ll send you a summary of our findings shortly.


The primacy of the CSR report is waning

A once-a-year book-like report is only one of many ways that companies need to support and engage online audiences. Stakeholders often only need raw data, a news  announcement or case studies; some need a broad overview of the CSR strategy and objectives while others are looking for detail on a single issue, others still want to get in touch: the web is an ideal environment to respond to these needs.


Social media use is expanding as more users turn to Facebook for CSR and not just personal use

Almost half of non-corporate respondents use one of the major platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – at least monthly for CSR reasons. Use of Facebook for CSR in particular has ballooned and now matches Twitter as the second most important social network for CSR after LinkedIn. The number of respondents saying they’re not interested in what companies do in social media has halved since 2011, and now stands at just 6.5%.


Ever more users are clamouring for year-round information and engagement

More than four out of five users say they would like updates from companies between one non-financial report and the next – and the proportion is growing. In fact, a majority says on-going updates are “very useful” or of “critical importance”.

They are looking in particular for companies to respond promptly to issues in the public or media debate, publish case studies and news releases and also to be active in social media. One in four would like updated environmental data and report updates.


Not just text and tables, please!

Although the survey reflects the views of many “expert” users, it’s surprising how important visual (and non-textual) communications remains. Of the non-corporate users:

>> more than two thirds state they have consulted diagrams and charts in the past six months and 45% have used interactive data tools

>> two out of five watch CSR-related videos on YouTube on at least a monthly basis

>> 44% say they are looking at infographics for CSR information.


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Our blog is an informal space we use to keep in touch with friends and all those who share our enthusiasm for digital and corporate communications. We post our views on interesting trends, comment on best practice or report back from the conferences we speak at or attend. We also highlight our latest videos and post announcements and photos from our own events. We hope you’ll be inspired to think, comment and share.

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