Five top tips on social media for sustainability

How can you effectively harness the power of social media to create business sustainability value? Julie Urlaub shares her top tips.

Social media executed successfully can be a powerful vehicle to build sustainable business communications by engaging with stakeholders.

There is a sustainable business mindset that is gaining tremendous momentum, yet many companies are still just coming to grips with it. Today’s consumers are becoming more socio/ eco aware and companies with a traditional marketing approach are sure to witness a diminishing return in simple product marketing.

Described in greater detail in the article, The Key to Success? Your Corporate Mission, today’s consumers are less focused on products than they are on the companies who sell them.

"The world has wised up. No one is going to be tricked into buying something by cute TV commercials. In the Internet Age, everyone has the ability to find out everything about your company, market, and products. If you want to sell, you’d better show customers that you care intensely about your product and what it stands for.”

Enter the world of social media for sustainability. Social media executed successfully can be a powerful vehicle to build sustainable business communications by engaging with stakeholders.

With new tools and strategies changing the way the business world communicates and exchanges information, social media is becoming the transparent, engaging, competitive advantage that business sustainability delivers. What are the keys to effectively harness the power of social media to create business sustainability value?

1. Have a strategy

There is overwhelming evidence that today’s more educated and eco conscious consumers are seeking out companies that deliver on what they claim. Faced with an expanding set of consumer expectations, leading business sustainability minded organizations now realize that consumers and other key business stakeholders are in fact in a leveraged position to drive change in the business world.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach for social media marketing and engagement. The objective is to map and integrate a social media strategy to your business and sustainability objectives.

2. Identify your stakeholders

What that social media marketing strategy looks like will depend on the unique position of each company, but a smart social business plan will be the roadmap to engaging at all levels of influence. As shared in the post, Why Social Media Intelligence Enables Stakeholder Engagement, social media engagement is creating bridges between the corporate world and its stakeholders.

Specifically, by making use of social media's openness and users' willingness to discuss just about everything online, these tools open endless possibilities for social-media-aware companies to source, collect, analyze, and distribute what is now called social intelligence. Especially so if sustainable communications and performance is valued by your stakeholders.

3. Create and map content to stakeholder groups

Because social media intelligence incorporates a thorough 360-degree assessment of stakeholder engagement, there are a number of ways you can use traditional stakeholder feedback to your advantage to create and share relevant content to specific stakeholder groups in the social space.

The bottom line question is, "What content specifically do specific stakeholder groups need to know about your product, company, or sustainability initiatives?" Waste diversion, carbon footprint and sustainable procurement statistics can provide good content for tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates and more.

With social media, we no longer just communicate - we interact and engage.

4. Use multiple platforms for sustainable storytelling

What does sustainability mean to your organization? How does it "walk the sustainability talk?". Sometimes, summing that up in words can be challenging. Yet, social media offers a myriad of opportunities to express a single sustainability concept in multiple expressions whether that be a blog post, video, tweet, or even a picture. For instance, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Imagine what it would be like to summarize a definition of a sustainable business activity through pictures? Here's where the world of Pinterest makes its way into sustainability communications.

5. Engage!

Social media is an always on platform. This implies being present to the ongoing conversation: listening, contributing to the conversation, providing timely feedback, and incorporating that information into products, services, and ongoing dialog.

Social media marketing is becoming increasingly prevalent for how companies market and do business. Given content is critical for social media, companies need to find relevant and interesting information to disseminate and engage with key stakeholder groups.

How do you know when you have reached success? The post Social Media Success Defined answers this question. Your stakeholders can too. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, foursquare, blogging, the social web– we no longer just communicate; we interact. We engage.

Julie Urlaub is the founder and managing partner of Taiga Company, a social media and sustainability consulting company specializing in social media communications, strategy, training, managed services and stakeholder engagement for sustainable/ green business. Follow Julie on Twitter @TaigaCompany.