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Role of Social Media in Sustainability Evolves

andersonAs twitter, Facebook and other social networks continue to grab share of consumers’ time spent online – whether at a computer or via mobilephone – companies would do well to consider how to tap into the broad reach of these platforms in communicating their progress on sustainability and the environment.

An estimated 110 million Americans, more than a third of the population, regularly use online social networks, reports MediaPost, citing data from Anderson Analytics. Males are more likely to use social networks for business and their career, with 32 percent citing them as a key benefit, compared to 22 percent of females.

Engaging in social media is one way for companies to show transparency about their sustainability, reports Sustainable Industries.

That is especially true for triple-bottom-line companies, said Gabriel Scheer, founder of Re-Vision Labs, which advises sustainable businesses and organizations. Being inauthentic in social networking messages can be very damaging, however, especially since online social networkers will spread the word to their friends, Scheer warns.

Social media is also a cheap and easy way for companies to conduct promotions. Whole Foods is running a contest on twitter wherein its twitter followers are encouraged to tweet philosophies in five words, reports Supermarket News. The people with the ten most creative philosophies will earn a $50 Whole Foods gift card and a five-pound bag of quinoa.

For those who wonder why anyone would “follow” a supermarket chain on twitter, consider this: Whole Foods has more than 1 million followers. Bill Tolany, global coordinator of Integrated Media for Whole Foods, said, “We’re having a blast interacting with our customers on Twitter.”

Users of Facebook and LinkedIn tend to be the most loyal, the Anderson Analytics research shows. Only 29 percent of Facebook and LinkedIn users say they could “probably do without” the services, while 35 percent of MySpace users said the same. Twitter users were less convinced – 43 percent said they could “probably do without” the service.

Among users of multiple networks, 75 percent said Facebook was their most valuable online social network.

Here is an estimation of how many people log in at least once a month:

  • Facebook – 78 million
  • MySpace – 67 million
  • Twitter – 17 million
  • LinkedIn – 11 million regular users

To David Raycroft, vice president of product strategy at Milyoni, it is vital to engage in social networking. “If you are not engaging in these member communities, you’ve already lost control of the conversation,” he told Sustainable Industries.

Social networking is not the only way for your brand or company to connect with consumers and other stakeholders on the Web.

Old-fashioned search engine optimization is getting a remake for purposes of sustainability under a new initiative from sustainability consulting firm Clownfish.

The London-based firm has a partnership with search engine marketing company iProspect to help consumers locate information on environmental issues, reports MediaPost.

The new service aims to help consumers understand the relationship between sustainability and companies and brands they are searching for on the Web.

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3 thoughts on “Role of Social Media in Sustainability Evolves

  1. I believe that social networking is just as important, if not more so, for building ‘virtual’ teams and communities to develop & implement programs both within and outside of organizations / industries. When one considers the extent and reach of a sustainability program; the range of skills required across multiple business processes; and nascent stage of sustainability solution development, it seems logical that social networking platforms and tools fill a critical need to bring disparate groups / individuals together.

    How are sustainability professionals interacting, sharing knowledge, and organizing for solution development and deployment? Here are some current approaches:

    – Discipline – related: civil / environmental engineering (ACEC, ASCE, AWWA), Sustainable MBAs, etc

    – Business process – related: supply chain management, process optimization, procurement, product management
    Industry groups: LEED, AIA, AGC, buildSMART, and other buildings initiatives for architects and engineering design professionals

    – Regional groups: such as those in NY, Boston, India, and Silicon Valley; where there is an abundance of educated professionals with significant interest and expertise in relevant business processes

    – On – line networks, such as groups set up in Plaxo, Ning, LinkedIn, Virid.us, Facebook, and Yahoo.

    I have written articles on “Why the Sustainability Community needs Social Networking” on Environmental News Network (ENN) and TriplePundit; check out the following link:


    I also post on my blog about business models for social networking sites in this space; please see my website link.

  2. Social media also has some great opportunities to help break down the barriers for organizations in developing countries and all small business to be more sustainable. We are developing a collaborative sustainability standard for how companies develop an integrated sustainability program. As its being developed with open source software it’s free to download and use. Some standards can be costly for organizations so we hope to develop a quality one accessible for all.

  3. Wow I totally agree thats so true when you think about it cuz why not use something that promotes messages so quickly and actually be able to portray waht you want to say…..does anyone know where to find an article about this stuff?

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