Whatever your personal feelings are about the current hullaballoo in Indiana, the controversy surrounding whether or not businesses should be made to serve a specific group has made one thing very clear:
Your choices will be talked about on social media, whether or not you want them to be.
This month our theme is green business and environmentally-friendly business practices. If there was ever a slam-dunk method for directing the social media conversation in your favor, it’s sharing your green business practices online. But even this relatively simple path has better and worse practices.
Do use pictures. Photos and videos generate more than 50% more engagement than text alone. Green initiatives and practices have great potential for striking images like before/after shots, graphs that represent effectiveness, or simply beautiful nature photos. Keep a camera with you while you set up your environmentally-friendly adoptions, and keep images and video as part of your regular social media rotation.
Don’t underestimate your audience. In the 1990s, companies could stick a picture of a leaf on their packaging and claim environmental responsibility when the only change they made was…well…sticking a picture of a leaf on their packaging. This is the internet age. People have facts available and they aren’t afraid to use them. Cheesy, half-hearted, or deceptive green-bragging will be found out, and the internet will make you famous for it.
Do engage around green topics. Those that you post, and those that others posts. Be especially engaged with thought leaders for green movements in your community. If you can get those people to mention you and your brand favorably, their followers will do much of your job for you. Remember, the real power of social media for any message isn’t in you talking about you. It’s in other people talking about you favorably.
Don’t ignore your fan base as a resource. Organize online events, green flash mobs, clean-up days, and meetups about environmental issues, using your social media presence as a hub for the efforts. Ironically, as people become more electronically connected they crave more and more the concrete connection of IRL relationships. If you connect passionate people via your environmentally-friendly social media presence, you turn passionate people into passionate clients – and those are the best kind of clients.
Do brag about other companies. The 1-to-10 ration applies here just as much as it does in other social media initiatives. For every post you make about how awesome your business is, green-wise, post ten things about how awesome somebody else is doing, or great advice about how your customers can go green, or about environmental statistics. Remember: nobody really wants to read about you. They want to read you talking about them.
Don’t put off responding to sticky questions. If somebody engages with you, especially in a way that feels like an accusation or uncomfortable question, jump on it right away. Answer sincerely and openly, and provide links to supporting evidence. Silence may be golden in some aspects of life, but silence from a company on the internet is often equated with guilt. Be transparent and engaged, and the web will often forgive small mistakes and misunderstandings.
Do address your past misdeeds. The internet has a long memory. If your brand had less-than-green practices in a former life, somebody will mention it at some point. Make sure that somebody is you, so you can control the opening tone of the conversation. Post loud and proud what was going on before, what you’re doing to fix it, and the story of how you came to change your ways. Invite questions and conversation about your environmental underdog comeback-kid story.
Don’t lose your main message. You haven’t converted your company to all green, all the time. You’ve adopted green practices to make your business more efficient and become an environmentally responsible organization. Mention your new ways – or your long-standing traditions – as part of an overall social media marketing strategy. Don’t make it your main pillar unless it actually is the core of what your business does.
Do consider a change to your profile. Branding, including green branding, is a matter of establishing a publicly understood shorthand. The Nike swoosh communicates a variety of ideas, as does the Visa logo and the Coca-Cola symbol. You can make the shorthand for your company include environmental responsibility by making a couple of changes to either your logo or the images on your social media page. An image of a clean river in your banner, or a leaf on your logo, gets the message across in a way that people will process unconsciously whenever they see your page. Just remember the first don’t listed above, and be sure to back up the claims you make.
Don’t buy engagement. Purchasing likes and shares is still a service independent companies and even Facebook offer, but they’re never worth the investment. Most come from mills where Chinese or Indian employees like hundreds of pages per hour, then never think about or engage with that brand again. Though it might be tempting to turn your first few green posts into a hugely liked power play, this isn’t how to do it. At best, you get a brief spike with no real affect. At worst, you get caught and the internet decides you’re a phony about everything…including your green efforts.
Do include real life reminders. Social media is powerful, and increasingly takes up more and more social time for people each year, but you can’t make all of your green reminders part of your social media engagement. A simple green option in your store like on-site packaging recycling, a refill station for reusable water bottles, or an option to add $2.00 to the bill to plant a tree, underscores your message in ways that people will remember. Bonus points for organizing this in ways that encourage customers to share the experience on their own social media feeds.
Don’t forget to tell the Kabbage community about your experiments, efforts, successes, and failures in this department. Leave the story in the comments to help educate or be educated.