Over the last few years two relatively new business philosophies have become the trendy buzzwords in the corporate space – social media and sustainability. The rise of social media has provoked a complex cultural and communications shift in the way people share information and participate in conversations, resulting in the empowerment of the individual to demand change as well as to expect responsibility and social consciousness from brands to strike the triple bottom line balance.
This new social economy is based on engagement, relationships and mutual trust where relevance to the individual is the main currency for meaningful communications. Thus, innovation has become crucial for companies to reach, educate and inspire this new consumer about sustainability.
However, educating and inspiring this connected generation to embrace sustainability has proven to be a major challenge for brands. To a large extent this challenge is due to the fact that companies have difficulty making use of the right avenues to communicate their efforts and why they are of such importance for each stakeholder.
To truly reach people in the social economy brands are now required to heavily rely on those new tools and channels that the community has embraced so quickly – social media.
Unfortunately, for many corporations social media still feels like the “Wild Wild West”. Not only that, the added value that social media can offer is still either unrecognised or undermined because of fear of exposing the company to mass criticism.
Exactly this topic covers my first book “Social Media - Key for Sustainability Communications: Is social media a support tool or a menace when it comes to creating business sustainability value?” published by LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.
The book provides thorough analysis and practical guidance of the use of social media for sustainability communications. It explores the opportunities social media provides for sustainability communications and how it can go beyond just the marketing and PR department through to, for example, R&D when using it for collaboration and co-creation with stakeholders.
It also examines the menacing role social media can play when its core principles (also inherent to sustainability) – community, transparency, authenticity, innovation, creativity and collaboration – are ignored.
As a result, the book not only covers the fundamentals of the two philosophies and how they relate to each other, but it also offers best practice advice for utilising the power of social media for sustainability and avoiding potential pitfalls. Furthermore, the book provides numerous case studies of brands who have already made significant progress in communicating their sustainability efforts via social media (e.g. Patagonia, Unilever) as well as examples of other companies that have faced social media’s menace (e.g. Nestle).
“Social Media – Key for Sustainability Communications” is a result of my research for my second BA dissertation on the topic “The Power of Social Media as a Communications Channel for Creating Business Sustainability Value: a Support Tool or Menace?”
After months and months of considerable research I had serious difficulty finding enough literature sources on the topic. Yes, there are many people out there talking about the subject and offering some great insights in the form of articles or blog posts, for example my friend Julie Urlaub from Taiga Company (who was a big part of my research and encouraged me to publish my work) but I couldn’t find one single book or study that focuses exclusively on this topic.
In this regard, I hope that publishing my work as a book will fill this gap in the market and offer companies, professionals, academics and students a good source to help them learn more about how social media can be used in sustainability communications and what should be avoided.