With hundreds of millions of individuals logging into social media accounts every day, using the medium as a platform for social change and activism is just common sense. Today, about 61 percent of consumers use social platforms to learn about sustainability issues. In this open forum-style digital environment, consumers are able to have open conversations about corporate social responsibility and other salient subjects in sustainability.
For some consumers, these platforms are a way to track the social responsibility records of their favorite brands — and for major purpose-driven brands and organizations, social media continues to be an invaluable tool for reaching those consumers with targeted, effective social campaigns.
Ben and Jerry’s, for example, is no stranger to making a strong social impact via social media. For instance, in partnership with The Guardian, the 2015 “Too Hot to Handle” campaign took a multimedia approach by using humor as the mechanism to create a more approachable conservation about climate change. Influential comedy platform College Humor joined in, driving the campaign’s message to consumers, with satirical public service announcements such as “Save America’s Dumps” — a plea to Americans to help ensure “our children never have to grow up in a cold, dumpless world, wondering ‘mommy, where did all the methane go?’”
At my company, TerraCycle, we too have continually seen the value social media can bring to our partners’, and our own, sustainability and eco-activism efforts. Just this April, we worked with our longtime friends at Tom’s of Maine to help support the Less Waste Challenge. This Earth Month social media campaign challenged Tom’s of Maine consumers and TerraCycle participants to reduce from their lives one pound of waste per week. We shared our own tips and waste-reduction strategies on our social media channels, and encouraged users to engage with each other and share their own strategies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with great results.
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In just one month across the United States, thousands of individuals pledged to reduce a collective 130,000 pounds of waste from their everyday lives this year. Seeing that kind of engagement is a testament to the power and effectiveness of eco-activism on social media, and that consumers are receptive when their favorite socially responsible brands engage with them in educative, informative ways.
REI’s fantastic #optoutside campaign is another great example of social media engagement done right. In 2015, the company announced it would close all of its locations on Black Friday, encouraging consumers to go outside instead of shopping. Over 1.4 million individuals shared the #optoutside hashtag, and were given access to REI’s Explore the Outdoors platform — a search tool with BatchGeo-like functionality allowing consumers to find outdoor activities near them. This kind of engagement is invaluable for companies seeking to reach conscious consumers who will not only buy their products, but who align with their social values — and social media provides a platform to accomplish this.
Social media is a powerful tool, one that consumers and companies alike are using to engage, teach, learn and promote environmental awareness in an increasingly sustainability-driven market. It’s not just a platform for effective marketing; it’s an expansive open forum for discussion, giving companies an opportunity to both get consumers immersed in their mission and prove their commitment to more than just a product pitch.