Social media sites have changed the way we communicate, not only by connecting people, but by providing valuable promotion opportunities. Companies cannot afford to avoid this powerful marketing channel, according to research from Cone, Americans now expect companies to have a social media presence.
As we reviewed in a preceding post, social media can be used as a weapon against irresponsible businesses, but it can also be a powerful tool to help companies communicate an environmental message. Most leading companies employ social media, however, small and mid-sized companies are actually better candidates for social media because they are capable of acting quicker than larger companies.
Research conducted by Minneapolis-based Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law in July 2009 surveyed management, marketing and human resources executives within companies across the US. This survey revealed that the most popular Social Media Channels are Facebook (80%), Twitter (66%), YouTube (55%), LinkedIn (49%) and Blogs (43%).
In association with efforts like search engine marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC), and online branding, social media sites like the ones listed above can be a powerful part of green marketing.
Social media sites provide opportunities to network with those with shared interest and link up relevant causes. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the largest and best known social media sites, but some social networking sites focus exclusively on green issues (e.g., WiserEarth and MakeMeSustainable).
While posting content (articles, ads, updates, pictures and videos), on Facebook drives traffic, it does not help search engine rankings because backlinks from Facebook are not given any value by search engine crawlers. For SEO purposes it is important to get sites to post links to your site. This can be achieved by asking site owners to post your link, but one of the best ways to achieve this is to publish organic content.
The best social media campaigns avoid over-selling and are focused on organic content. A step by step roll out is usually preferable to an all at once approach which can be confusing and overwhelming.
Social media is a conversation, so it is best to listen much more than you sell. Successful campaigns employ frequent posts, involving items of interest to a defined target market. These posts should encourage a dialogue through comments and a forum for conversation.
Encouraging participation is one of the keys to using social media effectively. One of the easiest ways to foster participation is to start a contest or offer coupon codes with enticing value. Self interest is always the most compelling reason for people to act, but a social media campaign should also provide incentives to share with others. This can sometimes be achieved by offering an environmentally redeeming message.
A great example of an organization using social media to a sustainability program comes from The Co-operators Youth Conference for Sustainability. Its success can be attributed to several factors including the ability to share stories online, proven learning materials and a high profile partnership with David Suzuki. A survey produced by Hewitt on employee engagement, 94% of Co-operaters participants believe the company is socially and environmentally responsible.
Enterprises that are using social media promotion to promote their brand and serve the environment include the Pepsi Co. According to ReadWriteWeb, in 2011 these companies will harness the power of the social engine to “inform strategic decisions, and execute on the organization’s objectives, marketing plans, product roadmaps and more.”
There are many examples of how Enterprises and organizations are using social media for external marketing, but many are now using social media internally for collaborative learning and/or performance and productivity improvement.
Online social networking is sewn into the fabric of our daily lives, and companies that promote their green initiatives with social media are doing good for the planet while engaging in effective marketing communications.
Social Media Marketing and Environmental Sustainability republished with permission from The GREEN MARKET blog.
Richard Matthews is a Marketing Consultant and author of The GREEN MARKET, a blog dedicated to green investing and the economy. Richard hails from Quebec Canada. He enjoys hiking, canoeing, and rock-climbing.