At a panel on social media and CSR held at the recent GLOBE conference in Vancouver, BC, social media was confirmed as an essential tool to leverage discussions on sustainability into broader audiences.
Here are seven recommendations the expert panelists made to get the most out of their social media efforts:
- Listen, listen, listen
Social media is less about managing downside risk and more about listening to your key audiences. These will not only tell you their truth, but also “bring emergent thought to the surface, which is key for staying ahead of the market,” Dialog Principal Craig Applepath pointed out. “This is happening for the first time in history.”
- Be authentic
In the emerging social ecosystem, authenticity is key. Feeding the corporate line either falls flat, or worse, backfires. “Let the content speak for itself,” recommends TreeHugger Business, Politics & Energy Editor Matthew McDermott. Being authentic will also engage your audience deeply enough to “help you understand what questions to answer,” he added.
- Be humble, self-critical and willing to adapt
Self-promotion is a social death-knell. If your organization can trust your people, you have nothing to worry about. At Microsoft, the company uses social media extensively for customer feedback from business decision makers, policy wonks and green influencers. “We’re on a major push to raise the bar on transparency, and an appropriate tone has served us well,” says Director of Environmental Sustainability Josh Henretig.
- Be a real person
In social, companies are not people. Anonymous corporate voice with lingo and the occasional CEO quote neither gets hits nor engagement. “People want to know and feel people,” states Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Weber Shandwick Canada. “Put a picture and a name to your designated social media mavens and let them show their personalities, even if they have a few rough edges.”
- Engage over time and on multiple platforms
Some firms use Twitter for quick internal ping-backs, TreeHugger now gets one third of its traffic from social media, and Dialog uses YouTube and a wiki for prospective employees. All platforms are seen to serve audience engagement in their own unique way. “It’s an iterative process. Experiment (occasionally fall down) and learn,” Applepath stated.
- Be relevant
Audiences want value, especially in the B2B space. They seek expertise and want their problems taken seriously. They wish to be addressed by specialists who know what they’re talking about and help solve their specific problems. Find out what you can help them solve. By showing them a broader perspective over time you can grow into an industry leader.
- Be fearless
The recommendation most heard — and not just at the GLOBE panel — is not to fear audience reaction. Easy said, harder to do or convince the internal powers-to-be. Those who dare, however, are rewarded with increasing voice, follows, fans and attention all the way up the credibility chain (and down the sales funnel).
Following these basic guidelines developed in the trenches will get you on the right social path to credibility and relevance in fulfilling your company’s social and environmental responsibilities.
Article by Stephan Burckhardt, a cleantech and social media marketer with Versio2 based in Switzerland.