This is the second of my four cornerstone articles. The first was about Sustainability and Business. This second article will be on the relationship of Sustainability and Social Media. It will outline how important I see Social Media for Sustainability, what its issues are and how you can manage Social Media for Sustainability right to produce the results for your Sustainability cause. All according to my experience. 🙂
Sustainability and Social Media are natural combinations
Social Media is the communications channel of the 21st century. If a company, interested to sell a consumer-facing product, is not actively using social media, it is not doing its business well. And this is where promoting Sustainability comes in. What better way is there to engage with individuals and organisations directly about our global goal of moving towards a more sustainable future?
Sustainability and social media are a natural combination. They are partners to help us promote a more sustainable future. It is not the only way of engagement of course. But it is the most direct and fastest way of engaging individuals and organisations these days.
Useful Social Media channels for promoting Sustainability
I am a big fan of dividing sustainability and social media up into different engagement channels. This in my view makes the task of interacting with stakeholders via social media much easier. And it will help you focus on the channels that you can have your biggest impact in and in which you prefer to engage. Everyone is different when it comes to this preference. This makes social media so diverse.
These are the social media channels I would recommend to use. It would be great to use all of these five channels to maximise the exposure for your sustainability promotion of course. But be aware that this takes a lot time and effort to constantly update all of these channels. If you have the time, fine. I do not have that time and therefore decided to focus on three social media channels. This is the post about this decision. I call it my social media triangle.
The five sustainability and social media channels I prefer:
- Your own website: For me this has and would always be the starting point for any online engagement. Creating your own website is super easy these days. The options what to choose are vast. I have always used WordPress as a blogging platform and would not recommend anything else to be honest. A website also does not need to cost these days. If you just want to write and get your message out there a WordPress website is great.
- Twitter: I am a big Twitter fan. I know others might not be. But I believe you will have no other choice if you want to engage online. You need to be on Twitter. Engagement there is more indirect and a bit unpersonal, but all in all it is still the social media platform for sustainability topics and news. I have been on Twitter since 2008 and have not regretted it a single minute.
- Facebook / Instagram: Facebook and Instragram are changing to be the alternative to Twitter these days. Their Facebook and Instagram pages are very good drivers for online engagement. My Facebook page is still at its beginning but I am confident that the engagement on our Facebook page will grow continuously. Engagement on Facebook is much more personal compared to Twitter. That makes it a good partner next to Twitter and your own website in my experience. My Instragram experience is limited so can not really say much about that here unfortunately.
- LinkedIn: I see that there are more and more sustainability people focusing on engagement via LinkedIn these days. This is an interesting development of course. LinkedIn is the professional Facebook these days and I can see the point in this. But for me LinkedIn is not a primary engagement channel. It is purely a channel for my professional connections in business. That is just me. You might think differently. And that is why LinkedIn might be useful for your Sustainability and Social Media engagement.
There are too many other channels I could name next to these mentioned above. But that would be far to much for this article. So why not take your pick from this Wikipedia list: List of social networking sites. I am sure you will find the social media network you are most interested in.
Possible problems you can face using Social Media
Obviously social media is not a one way communication channel. I see social media as a two-way engagement channel that evolves around that persons point of view and life experience. This two-way engagement comes with opportunities and problems. I believe that opportunities for outnumber the problems.
So lets start with some of the possible problems:
- You can get no feedback or negative feedback: This is the nature for social media these days. If you are getting your brand or cause out there you need to accept the fact that there will be no or negative feedback. Negative feedback is always tough to take in of course. But rest assured, we have all had negative feedback and it is not the end of the world. Take it on the chin, address it if you think it has some merits and move on. Be inclusive and not exclusive in engaging with negative feedback. Who knows, it might turn into positive feedback at some point.
- You need to react quickly and that might not be possible: Social media engagement is very quick. If you are engaging on Sustainability topics, be prepared for a quick response. Your followers will love you for it. Swift engagement is the fuel of social media engagement. If you can not be quick in responding you are missing a trick.
- Results are short term oriented and long term engagement is tougher then you think: Social media is a short term oriented engagement channel. Do not mistake it as something long term. If you do you will be disappointed.
The opportunities: How to do Sustainability and Social Media right
Now we will look at the opportunities of social media engagement. Social media can be a catalyst for change in sustainability in my view. Al Gore calls the next revolution, the sustainability revolution in this WEF 2018 session. And this revolution will be driven by social media engagement amoungst other drivers.
The possibilities are endless and the outcome is mostly positive if you take these three general rules into account:
- Be Authentic: Do not try to be something or someone else. Be as authentic as possible. Especially being active on social media as an individual is a bit scary at the beginning. But just be yourself and put your arguments forward in the way you would in real life. Nothing else works in my experience.
- Be honest: This is a close companion to point 1. If you want to be authentic you need to be honest. Anything else will disqualify you as a non turstworthy engager. This is not something you should be seen as. If you can not be honest you should not engage in social media.
- Be direct but do not spam: Direct engagement is the unique aspect of social media. Make use of it but do not spam other people with your content / message. This will automatically disqualify you in my experience.
Ever since I jumped into the social media stream in 2008 I did not regret it a single minute. Yes you will get tired of some aspects of it. That is normal. But if you are persitant and continuous in your engagement you will reap the benefits and be successful in your own way.
The possibilities in social media are endless. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and make a name for yourself or your brand!
Picture Credit: “Social Media Interaction 2014” by David Shankbone. Licensed under CC-BY 2.0.