Social media thrives on compelling storytelling, and chances are that your sustainability efforts have the capacity to pull on your audience’s heartstrings better than another post promoting your product or service.
When planning your sustainability messaging strategy, social media might not be top of mind. After all, social media is inherently fun and friendly, whereas sustainability is traditionally dry, corporate and nuanced. However, as consumers, employees and investors are increasingly understanding the value of sustainability, the appetite for these stories — as well as the platforms from which they are shared — have grown and evolved. Publishing a dense and technical report that’s buried somewhere on your corporate website is no longer enough — you must seek out new communication channels and new ways of telling your story to reach your growing audience, and that includes social media.
We all know that B2C companies can find success in the world of likes and shares, but what about B2Bs? While B2B companies are a bit late to the game, a survey by Omobono revealed that 79 percent of B2B marketers rated social media as their most effective marketing channel. Still, one of the greatest challenges B2B companies face on social media is developing rich, engaging content. Without an interesting, sexy product to sell, how can a B2B company compete against the Coca-Colas and Patagonias of the world in the over-saturated social media space?
This is where sustainability content comes into play. For B2B companies, in particular, sharing your sustainability story on social media is an opportunity to share compelling content and create an emotional connection with your audience. It pushes your social media narrative from what you’re doing to why you’re doing it — which is the story your audiences really want to hear.
Social media thrives on compelling storytelling, and chances are that your sustainability efforts have the capacity to pull on your audience’s heartstrings better than another post promoting your product or service. Social media also gives you a platform to cherry-pick those inspiring stories from your dense sustainability report and put them in front of an audience who cares. Finally, talking about your sustainability priorities on social media allows you to join a larger conversation about the issue at hand, while positioning your company as a thought leader.
Are Sustainable Brand Messages Targeting the Wrong People?
Hear more from Radley Yeldar's Eileen Chen about why we should rethink our assumptions about sustainable consumers and why redefining our target demographics will serve the broader needs of our transition as a society — June 8 at Brand-Led Culture Change.
Below are some tips for creating a social media strategy that sticks.
Start with social listening.
Don’t just blast your initiatives all over social media and hope it resonates. Seek out discussions that are already happening surrounding your broader cause and determine how your company fits into the larger conversation. This will also allow you to make connections with people who are already engaged.
Ladder up to a singular, overarching focus, connected to business goals.
Just as you should take a holistic approach to your sustainability strategy with each initiative supporting an overarching goal, every social media message you publish should ultimately help address a broader issue you are aiming to solve that is material to your business. A good place to start is by leveraging your communications framework, which can help define your content pillars and help you hone in on how they all fit together under one focus. Be clear with your overall focus, as wavering between causes and using non-committal language will weaken your narrative. In this era of transparency, audiences are quick to pick up on — and call out — inauthentic content.
Don’t showboat your efforts or publish self-serving content.
Follow the 80/20 rule, in which 80 percent of your content inspires, educates or entertains your audience, while the remaining 20 percent directly promotes your business. Instead of focusing only on your own initiatives, share inspirational stories aligned with your cause, which will help position you as a thought leader. When you do share your efforts, avoid being boastful and tie it back to the broader cause. Always remember to communicate the why instead of the what.
Incorporate sustainability messaging with overall content.
While there some exceptions, we typically do not recommend creating separate social media handles for your sustainability content as this fragments your messaging and may leave your audience with the impression that it’s not an important topic. Instead, integrate sustainability with your primary social media accounts and ultimately, your overall brand narrative. Always remember that your sustainability strategy should align with your existing business strategy.
Showcase human stories and build upon emotions.
Save the statistics and data for your sustainability report. Social media is an opportunity to humanize your business by delivering compelling, human-centered stories that demonstrate your impact. Emotions trigger engagement, which increases your reach and strengthens the connection with your audience. The key is to share authentic content and reflect your true emotions.
Use social media as a platform for positive change.
Social media is all too often perceived as a force for negativity, but it also presents businesses with a tremendous opportunity to use their influence to catalyze positive change. Instead of using social media solely as a platform to promote your efforts, be a leader and seize the chance to inspire a movement and rally others behind your cause.
Social media and sustainability are both ongoing projects that depend on the values of community, transparency and collaboration, making them a natural fit.
Sustainability addresses global issues and social media addresses a global audience, simultaneously allowing companies to share their progress in real-time and engage directly with those affected. When used effectively and ethically, social media and sustainability have a collective ability to empower a company to drive substantial change through garnered stakeholder support.
This post first appeared on the thinkPARALLAX blog on March 5, 2019.