Using social media marketing to promote green business

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Posted 05 June 2012

Being responsible for The CarbonNeutral Company’s digital and social media marketing, I regularly advise our clients on how to promote their carbon reduction achievements. I wanted to share an introduction to social media and how to use it, as it's an area I’m often asked about.

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.

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.

I’ll limit my recommendations to the channels and tools commonly used by businesses, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogging.

Who is using social media?

Recent research from ComScore says social networking websites reach 82% of global internet users. Facebook now reaches over half of the world's global audience, and accounts for one in every seven minutes spent online around the world. In October 2011, Twitter reached one in ten internet users worldwide, having grown nearly 60% in the past year.

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%).

10 hints and tips for using social media to promote green business

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 interview from TUI’s Director of Sustainable Development.

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. My 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’.

Corporate blogs offer you a great way to demonstrate expertise, raise the profile of your organisation, and increase awareness of your environmental achievements. A good example of a company using a blog for this purpose includes our client Commercial Group.

Enabling different people from around the company to write blog posts ensures expert content that it is fresh and interesting, as well as making people feel included. Here are some great tips for writing your own corporate blog.

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 Thomson Holidays Twitter or First Choice Holidays 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 green 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 green 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.

Two of my colleagues recently attended a conference discussing PAS 2060 (similar to our CarbonNeutral Protocol, PAS 2060 outlines the process required to become carbon neutral.) Sending tweets from the event that included hashtag #pas2060 led to our PAS 2060 webpage increasing in the Google UK search results.

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 green 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.

10) Measure

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.

Econsultancy produces great content covering all aspects of digital marketing, including social media. Read their social media measurement blog post for further guidance.

 

I hope you’ve found my first blog post to be interesting and useful. Obviously social media is a huge subject so it’s impossible to cover everything in one post. If you have any other hints and tips then please add them using the comments box below. Feel free to follow @carbonneutralco on Twitter to keep in touch with us or link to me on LinkedIn for further hints and tips and to learn more about carbon reduction and its benefits for your business.

Paul Raybould

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