SPRiNG // Social Media & Corporate Sustainability: Starting the Conversation and Finding it Interesting 
#springyyz   @mrJAMESwatson

Posted on by James Watson
Featuring: Gerry Rocchi CEO, Green Power Action  &
Ian Gardner President, Gardner & Associates

Listening – it’s commonly cited as the most important piece of communication. As it applies to face-to-face conversation, so too does it apply to social media. Indeed, a strategy emphasizing listening may present social media’s greatest opportunity for business.

The latest Toronto SPRiNG event – Social Media & Corporate Sustainability: Starting the Conversation and Finding it Interesting – brought together a diverse array of professionals eager to explore this topic in greater depth. Many of SPRiNG’s typical sustainability professionals brought along their company’s respective social media specialists too. The result was a great dialogue with many valuable and different points of view.
The dialogue began with some general cautions regarding online social media;

  • use an authentic and transparent voice,
  • do not broadcast typical (e.g. boring) corporate announcements,
  • avoid mass-messaging across different platforms (e.g. Linkedin vs. Facebook) for the audiences are different,
  • criticism is inevitable so do what you can to address it respectfully, and
  • try to be as human as possible.

This is “social” media, after all, and despite the electronic nature of the medium, its users still demand that human touch.

A Good Story

While unrelated to corporate sustainability, one participant cited Cineplex’s successful social media campaign, My Movie Moment, where they invite fans to share their special memories. Perhaps some proactive sustainability professionals could do a twist on this by sharing videos of themselves showcasing some of the initiatives they have spearheaded at their respective organizations. That is certainly human.
Relatable is important too. Perhaps you and I as sustainability professionals find the installation of solar thermal panels on a YMCA Health, Fitness and Recreation centre to be absolutely riveting. To the average consumer, however, that may be just plain boring. Perhaps they would rather speak about how they enjoy the yoga class on Thursdays or how their kid really likes their daycare supervisor. Better yet, perhaps they would like to talk about how they really enjoy having the yoga class on the green roof in the mornings or how their child has all these great learning opportunities that make use of the centre’s environmental features.
One participant told the group about one of Metrolinx’s successful campaigns. They used many of their traditional promotional avenues – like posters in trains and in stations – inviting people to join an “Expert Panel” (or “E-Panel”). Via different methods like a mailing list, surveys, and I’m sure Facebook and Twitter, Metrolinx has been able to remain engaged with this group that has provided invaluable insight into its customers’ motivations and concerns.

Talk about good story-telling! Let the audience do the talking.

That was the final point of the dialogue; that the use of social media for business may not be so much in the broadcasting of its corporate messaging or the direct selling of its products and services, but rather as a means for listening and as a means for understanding the customer. That knowledge is what any good businessperson knows is the bottom line. Social media presents that opportunity, so stop thinking you’ll simply start a conversation. The conversations are already going – it’s time to get to know your customer that much better.



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