Learning To Listen: How Social Media Can Spark Sustainability

Apr 22, 2011   //   by Bradley Short   //   Blog, Marketing & Communication, The Environment  //  No Comments

Not sure which direction to take your company?  Open your ears and you’ll be surprised to find answers all around you.  Employees, clients, and communities may already be calling your company towards corporate and environmental responsibility…and you didn’t even realize it.

The social web cares about the environment

Today’s social media-saavy consumer has a voice.  As a consumer, I know that when I speak my mind online, others will listen.  And I’m not alone.  Every day, millions of people use social media and blogs to talk about what they expect of the companies they do business with.  What do they want?  Credibility, environmental respect, and corporate responsibility.

Companies with a positive social and environmental agenda are celebrated online.  Irresponsible, secretive, and wasteful ones aren’t; they’re condemned. No company wants their brand bad-mouthed. Stay in the light and your customers will become your best allies.

Are you a responsible company?  Twitter perception often reflects reality

A simple Twitter search can tell you a lot about how your brand is perceived.  Let’s take a look at how two very different companies are being represented on Twitter in real-time. Follow the links to see what people are saying about these brands right now:

  • TOMS Shoes is a consumer favorite, and people praise their socially responsible practices all of the time.  People love telling their friends how much they love the shoes. TOMS’s dedication to helping children in need makes customers feel a real connection that carries over into the social sphere. Twitter search: TOMS Shoes
  • On the other hand, online conversations about agriculture biotechnology company Monsanto tend to be much more negative.  Infamously secretive, Monsanto leaves consumers to dwell and speculate on the most unfavorable aspects of the company. Twitter search: Monsanto

The actual results of these searches will always be changing, but we can often reasonably guess what sorts of things consumers are going to say.  Companies with a socially responsible focus are going to enjoy much more praise than those that don’t.

How to monitor your company’s green cred

Social media is a treasure trove of information about consumer attitudes. How actively do you monitor what people are saying about your brand and industry?  Knowing how you are perceived can help you realize your strengths, faults, and opportunities.

Here are a few tips that will help you stay on top of the social media conversation:

  • First of all, if you don’t have a company Facebook or Twitter, set one up right away.  Many times, consumers will want to engage with you directly.
  • Set up Google Alerts to “keep an ear to the ground” and monitor how blogs and the social web talk about your brand.
  • Remember to do Twitter searches from time to time for tweets that don’t directly mention your company.  Use search terms like “(your industry) + sustainability, CSR, environment, or green,” for instance.
  • And finally, be sure to engage with your critics and see if they have any ideas that could help you act more responsibly.

Social media skills must complement real sustainable goals

Ultimately, social media is just a spotlight.  Online communication skills can’t make an irresponsible company look like a responsible one. Consumers are always on the look out for greenwashers.  Set your company apart by truly listening to what your customers have to say.  Let their conversation help you drive your company to new, more sustainable, heights.

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