(This article appeared yesterday on Earth911.com, and I am proud to be a part of it and to share it with you.)
How did you get to this article? Did you find it on your Twitter homepage, or read it in your Facebook news feed? Did you StumbleUpon it, or Digg it and bump it up for the day?
If not, feel free to release this one to the masses (use the box over to the right for Twitter, Facebook and MySpace), because as far as the bandwagon is concerned, everyone’s doing it.
Before we really begin, let’s lay down some facts:
Social media is: “A category of sites that is based on user participation and user-generated content. They include social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us, social news sites like Digg or Reddit, and other sites that are centered on user interaction,” according to SearchEngineWatch.com. We also think the blogosphere (e.g. blogs and micro-blogs) counts here, too.
According to a recent conference that Earth911.com attended featuring executives from Facebook, more than 721 million people in the world use social media, which is 73 percent of all Internet users.
Consumers have rapidly ramped up their social network activity, with 35 percent joining up in the U.S., 18 percent in Europe, 51 percent in Korea and 30 percent in Japan from 2007 to 2008, according to Forrester Research.
But what does this mean for the “green” persuasion? Does social media help or hinder groups’ efforts to get the word out about the environment? Let’s break it down:
One of the best parts about being involved in social media is hearing what your friends and colleagues (or complete strangers) have to say on various topics. You can generate an organic conversation (no pun intended) simply by asking a question and waiting a few minutes for a reply.
- @ReadyAimOrganiz said “@Earth911 Yes, I’ve learned and shared more about green-living. Here are examples…http://is.gd/3zxxA and http://is.gd/3zxE4
- @mattsaling said “@Earth911 I find this ’social site’ helpful, http://www.2milechallenge.com, from clif bar. shows what is with in a 2 mile radius 2 ride 2″
- Michelle Talsma Everson said “I personally don’t think social media is doing much physical work for green efforts, but might be doing a good job raising awareness and bringing together like-minded people!”
The consensus from these replies? Social media helps people find new resources and share information about various environmental topics. We also did a quick search on Facebook for “green” and found more than 1,500 pages, groups and events. And when we searched for “recycle” (a topic close to our hearts) more than 1,000 similar results came up.
Social media provides centralized locations for people who are involved in or concerned about the same topics and themes to have a common place to talk and share ideas. Even a quick glance down our Twitter feed shows us topics from sustainability and recent legislation to general news updates and poignant thoughts from industry leaders.
And the buzz about environmental issues is getting louder by the day. Even as early as 2007, experts said the Web 2.0 model would make “green” mainstream.
As Mashable’s “Social Media and Web Guide to Going Green” so eloquently puts it, “green” is so ingrained in social media now that “There are so many [Web sites] and apps built for green goals that the Earth2Tech blog devoted an entire conference to them in March. Meanwhile, Al Gore and other eco-luminaries are trying to establish the .ECO domain as the virtual parking space for all things green.”
But knowing about topics and being connected to them is only one part of the puzzle. What about doing something?
Out in the Real World
For Howell, social media helps level the playing field for organizations that may not have the big bucks to spend on conventional forms of advertising.
“A lot of these green movements don’t have a lot of money that they can throw at traditional advertising, but social media gives them that stage or platform,” said Howell. “When you’re talking about cause marketing, it’s an absolute boon to groups that don’t have the big budgets – they can really use it effectively.”
At Park&Co., this low-budget grassroots awareness has been key to the success of various campaigns, such as “Water – Use it Wisely.” According to Howell, Park&Co. was one of the first to implement social media in the water conservation arena. “Again, we found a tremendous amount of power to connect with people out there without the funds typically required for such a large campaign,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it without social media.”
Also prevalent in the green sphere is the idea of utilizing company transparency to help build an organization’s credibility. “For those marketers that do have the money, companies are coming out with big, green products. They can get some very real customer reaction (good or bad) about how effective it is in the marketplace. It is a terrific proving ground if they’ve got the guts to be transparent about it. This way they get real time, real input that the rest of the world can look in on.”
We dig (ok, that’s enough with the puns) Howell’s blog post, “The 12 Faces of Social Media for Sustainable Green Marketing.” He notes that one of the functions of social media is to help you be an “enabler” and explains that President Obama’s campaign is a perfect example of this concept.
It allows you to “build community around your environmental mission, green cause, eco-conscious rants or global warming march. You don’t even need a world-class strategist or Web designer.” On that note, here are a few ways you can plug in:
Ask & Answer Questions – If you’re already hooked into a social media network, you’re already half-way there. What are you interested in? Recycling? Cradle-to-cradle? Renewable Energy? The likelihood is that there’s someone else out there who knows more, or wants to know more, too. If you’re on Twitter, we love Mashable’s list of more than 75 environmentalists to follow. Check out @Earth911 as well! Earth911.com hosted a Twitter pledge drive for Earth Day and heard some great ideas from our followers.
Fundraise Through Blogs & Tweets – This summer, World Environment Day was taken by storm with tree planting and donation initiatives through @UNEPandYou and Dell. Through the Twitter for Trees initiative, more than 10,300 trees were planted, just by @UNEPandYou acquiring new followers. While often requiring a sponsoring party, twestivals (Twitter+festivals) like these are simple ways to make a difference and gain an audience. Or, participate in Blog Action Day an annual event that “unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day [...] with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.” This year, Blog Action Day is Oct. 15, and will focus on climate change.
Carnival of the Green - The Carnival is a summary, a digest, of the green blogosphere. “When we say green we mean sustainability issues, etc. as opposed to plain old general Green Politics. Each host has the right to include whatever they wish and/or whatever they feel is worthy of being in the Carnival,” according to The Carnival’s host, TreeHugger. As of the writing of this article, dates are available starting June 28, 2010. And get excited for when Earth911.com hosts The Carnival on May 3, 2010. You can also find an archive of past Carnivals, if you’re looking for comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the sustainability sphere.
#EcoMonday & Other Hashtags - If you’re on Twitter, think of #EcoMonday as the #FollowFriday for environmentally oriented tweeple. If you’re following interesting people and want to share them with your probably very interesting followers, send out a #EcoMonday tweet. Every Monday, this is a consistent trending topic. Try other hashtags like #Green and #Recycle to get plugged into the conversation.
So, will your conversations change the world? Maybe! Tell us about your own experiences below.