Sustainability – Fueled by Social Media

Nathan HeadshotBy Nathan Strauss, Green Seal Intern – Spring 2015

What’s something that popular social media pages share in common? Posts that are sharable and useful.

As the green economy continues to grow, companies that prove themselves to be leaders in sustainability are beginning to gain an edge amongst consumers. More often than not, one of the most effective ways to portray their sustainable commitments is through the use of eco-labels, like the Green Seal. Product labels are excellent promotion tools, because of how they clue audiences in to a general theme—they can be promoted across many posts to drive home the same point (in the case of eco-labels, sustainability).

Similarly, one of the most effective ways to promote these commitments is through the use of social media. As a marketing tool, social media is invaluable, as it provides companies with an opportunity to form a relationship with their consumers.

As a communications student, I’ve seen first hand the impact that social media can have on an organization’s ability to engage its followers. With so many consumers, myself included, regularly interacting on social media platforms it is by far the most efficient way to broadcast one’s message to a larger audience—particularly when done strategically.

In surveys, up to 78 percent of respondents believe that a company’s social media posts have impacted their purchasing decisions. Not only that, but after sharing or favoriting a product, 38 percent of Facebook users and 22 percent of Twitter users purchase said item. And this kind of data is not off the mark—my own personal experience offers evidence to the notion that the way in which a company markets its products online can greatly influence purchasers.

But getting these kinds of responses is not always as straightforward as it may seem. The companies that are most successful in using social media—think giants like Taco Bell, Wal*Mart, GrubHub, etc.—do so well because they interact with users as if they themselves are an individual. In each message, a voice and personality is conveyed, which allows followers to connect more easily. Wit and good writing, especially, go a long way in leading followers to read through your post to the important messages—deals, product offers, and purchasing options.

In turn, the importance of sustainable lifestyles and purchasing choices is becoming the popular opinion, with more and more users following related pages. For instance, nearly 300 thousand Facebook users follow the Rainforest Alliance page—no doubt due in part to its heavy social media presence. By promoting their “follow the frog” campaign through brief video shorts—something highly shareable by followers—the Rainforest Alliance takes advantage of social media’s inherently public nature.

For companies looking to engage their consumers all while touting their commitments to sustainability, the timing can’t be beat. Better yet, because the social media climate surrounding green products is heading in such a good direction, companies now have the chance to encourage others in their field to start promoting the same standards of quality.

With companies actively motivating each other to promote more sustainable product lines, and with encouragement from a positive social media response by followers, eventually the green economy may grow enough that marketing green products will become par for the course.

Ultimately, though, it all ties back to effective social media management by industry and sustainability leaders. Companies must engage their consumers—their posts must go beyond simply plugging sales and product lines—they must connect with their followers through a relatable personality and voice, something more easily said than done.

For those needing resources, a good place to start may be this list of effective social media strategies and how they work. Having eco-label certifications on one’s products is an easily promotable and favorable practice for engaging an ever-more eco-conscious consumer base. But what happens when the communication is between businesses or between business and government?

Look out for part II of the blog series, coming soon.

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