What is social media?
Social media involve user participation and/or user generated content. Popular social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Google+ and Foursquare, as well as social bookmarking sites like Delicious, and social news sites like Digg or Reddit. In 2012 it was reported that out of all internet users, 67% use social networks regularly. In the last year alone, Twitter has seen a 40% increase in active users and Facebook has seen a 37% growth in users. Linked-in, which is arguably the social network for business, now has over 200 million members worldwide and professionals are signing up to join the network at a rate of more than two new members per second.
Specific social media techniques include creating profiles, blogging, micro blogging (also known as tweeting), ratings and reviews, as well as video, photo, podcast and presentation creation and sharing.
Who is using social media?
According to Econsultancy, 91% of companies say social media is becoming more important to their overall marketing strategy. In their ‘State of Social 2011’ report, 87% of global company respondents use Twitter as part of their social media marketing strategy, and 82% use Facebook. Other popular platforms for businesses include YouTube (69%) and LinkedIn (57%).
Ten hints and tips for using social media to promote your environmental action
1) Profile creation
Think about what you want to achieve and which channels are best for reaching your target audience. For example, if you’re aiming to reach businesses then you may consider LinkedIn and Twitter to be more useful than Facebook.
Ask yourself, what are your objectives for having a presence in social media? Who will manage your social media presence? Does that person or department need guidelines to follow to help represent the company appropriately? A good starting point is to follow companies and brands similar to yours, as well as those that you like. Look at how they use tone of voice to balance being a professional company in an informal medium.
Here are some simple steps to help you create a professional Twitter account, business Facebook page and LinkedIn company profile.
For inspiration why not follow some of our clients including @Arjowiggins, @IcelandicWater and @SkyFutureLeader. You can also follow environmental industry specialists such as @Forum4theFuture, @GuardianSustBiz and @BusinessGreen.
2) Relevant content
Think of what would be of relevance and interest to your target audience, and create and share content with that in mind. By doing this you’ll rapidly grow a fan base of valuable likes, followers and subscribers who will share your content to help you expand your reach.
Think of content you can use in different formats across various channels. For example, a short video interview can be inexpensive to produce whilst letting you benefit from the popularity of online video. A good example includes this discussion panel with Helena Helmersson, Global Head of Sustainability at H&M
3) Establishing your expertise
Online forums and groups enable you to engage in debate and discussion on your specialist subject in order to raise the profile of your organisation and establish yourself as an expert. Preferred online forums include LinkedIn groups.
Remember: When participating in online discussions your objective is to demonstrate knowledge and expertise, not sell your services. Trying to use social media as a sales channel will quickly lead to you losing likes and followers, and at worst being banned for ‘spamming’.
4) Listen and respond
Social media makes it easy for clients and customers to make contact with your company. Rather than using it as a traditional one-way communication tool where you simply broadcast messages, use it to find the advocates for your company and the influencers for your industry. Where possible engage in conversation with them through social media, and observe the conversations they have to understand their needs and interests more. Social media provides a unique opportunity to engage with your customers in a different way to other communication channels. Depending on the size of your organisation and customer base, you may choose to set up social media accounts that focus specifically on customer service like Avis Car Rental Twitter or Sky Facebook accounts.
5) Market trends and competitors
‘Like’ the Facebook pages, ‘follow’ the Twitter accounts, and ‘subscribe’ to the YouTube channel of your competitors to gain valuable insight in to what they are doing as a business to meet growing demand for environmentally friendly products and services. Have they committed to carbon reduction targets? Have they entered or won any environmental awards? Do they have a CSR policy? Are they using social media to communicate their sustainable business practices?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then what can you as a company do to exceed their achievements and excel as leaders in your field?
If the answer is no, then how can you as a company use social media to gain an edge above your competitors?
6) Using hashtags
If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, then the amount of content may seem overwhelming. Individuals and organisations use hashtags as a convenient way to enable people to sort content in to relevant subjects. For example, if you search Twitter for #environment or #sustainability then you can find content relevant to these topics. Include relevant hashtags in your tweets as a way to allow people to find your content and start following you to find out more.
Here’s a list of popular environmental hashtags you can use in relevant tweets.
7) Search engine optimisation
There are many factors search engines such as Google use to determine which websites they display in their search results. A big factor is the number of links to a website, and this includes links from social media.
Having a webpage that lists your environmental targets and achievements then linking to it in tweets with relevant key words will help as part of your search engine strategy. For more information look at this introduction to search engine optimisation and presentation about social media and search engines.
8) Responding to complaints and criticisms
Many businesses fear social media because of its open nature and the potential for receiving complaints and criticisms in such a public forum. In a world of growing scepticism around environmental claims, being able to respond to public concerns or questions in social media can be effective to reduce negative sentiment about your company or environmental efforts. At its most effective, being seen to publicly respond to customers can convert negative opinion to positive association for your company. This interesting article provides guidance on turning negative commenters in to brand advocates.
9) Promoting your social media efforts
It’s necessary to promote your social media presence through existing established channels to ensure success. Add social media buttons to your website and email signatures that encourage people to ‘follow’ and ‘like’ you.
You can also benefit from adding ‘social share’ buttons to your website, environmental webpage and blog, that easily allows visitors to share that page with their own Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn groups etc. For more information read this helpful social sharing buttons article.
As social media is a more qualitative than quantitative channel of marketing, measuring results can be challenging. Some companies use sentiment monitoring software to measure qualitative variables, although they vary in reliability.
Typical metrics you can measure include followers and likes, the number of visits to your site from social media and how long those visitors stay on your site (tools like bitly and Google Analytics can help with this), which pages people from social media are visiting, retweets of your tweets, comments on your blog, positive and negative mentions of your company or brand within social media, leads and sales acquired, relationships with clients and prospects, and metrics such as Klout which aim to measure your influence.