To be engaged in social media, or not to be engaged in social media. That is the question for cleantech companies.
Through the left ear, you hear, "Free Exposure!" being shouted at you; but through the right ear, you hear, "Waste of time and money!" Which ear should you trust?
The answer, like everything else in the green marketing world, is there's no one stock answer. It depends on what your cleantech company is trying to achieve.
The Left Ear: Free Exposure!
Social media hasn't altered the need for a cleantech company to have a compelling story to share, but it's given cash-strapped companies more channels to share that story. But, as the saying goes, there's no free lunch. Companies that put out slapdash content or who spam their followers lose credibility, lose followers and lose engagement opportunities that would otherwise extend their brand story.
Compounding the problem is no two social media networks are alike. While their audiences might overlap to a great extent, the purpose of the platforms and the kind of engagement you can expect is very different.
- Facebook company pages are about infotainment and a great way to build brand loyalty
- Instagram is a billion-person platform that excels in photo sharing.
- Twitter is about spontaneity, news coverage, micro-groups, industry influencers, and, of course, snark
- LinkedIn company pages specialize in company and industry news, and the network is heavily weighted towards college graduates.
- Pinterest is a great B2C network for shoppers.
- SnapChat and What's App are irrelevant for the B2B cleantech sector unless your target audience is under 25
- YouTube is a place where anyone can post video, no matter the quality. It also has more global users than any other platform.
The Right Ear: Waste Of Time!
Those who favor traditional media over its more upstart brethren poo-poo social because "it's for the kids," and because it's harder to see a direct correlation between the time spent investing in social and a direct yield either financially or in exposure. If you came of age before the Millenium, this logic is understandable because there were only three networks, basic cable, and the daily newspaper. In order to deliver a message, you had to do it through a filter and the media was the gatekeeper.
In the last 15 years, technology has made it possible for any company to BE its own media network. The filter between companies and their audience has largely been erased as long as the company chooses to produce enough content to eradicate it.
The key to success, as any fitness guru will tell you, is "use it or lose it." Using social media is a conscious decision a company makes, and it has to follow through with the same deliberateness as any other undertaking. If you are going to post content in an ad hoc manner, the skeptics are right; the juice isn't worth the squeeze. On the other hand, put together a systematic plan to reinforce your brand story and publish quality content with intention, and your followers will find you.
The ROI Of Social Media In Cleantech
As Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, famously said, "It's not who votes that counts; it's who counts the votes." And on the internet, Google is the counter.
Regardless of how much I prattle on about the importance of reinforcing your brand story, if no one can find you on a search engine, your company is effectively MIA, like a Soviet dissident tucked away in a mountainous gulag. The more content your company produces, the easier it is for Google's GPS to find you. And since 90% of all internet purchases begin with a search term, they are your guide out of the wilderness.
Social media, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other channel, is content. When people like and share what you have to say or follow you on a social media channel, it's like putting high test gasoline (biofuel, of course) into the tank. Your company's brand will burn hotter on search engines.
Improving your organic search engine rankings alone can save your cleantech company tens of thousands of dollars every year that it doesn't have to spend on paid search engine ads to be seen. The same goes for generating followers on social media. There's a value in showing up automatically in the feed of industry influencers and getting their attention.
My Advice? Listen In Stereo
Mama always said there's a reason we were all born with two ears and only one mouth, and it's wise counsel on whether your company should invest in social media.
Growth stage cleantech companies need as much exposure as they can get, but they have to choose how to spend their resources wisely. Unless your company has the resources to outsource your marketing, launching your own media network complete with videos, blog posts, entertainment, and calls to action is next to impossible. Targeting your platforms is a much more realistic option. Pick one and dominate it. When your company accomplishes the first goal, pick a second platform and so on.
But why not use an automated marketing system to post simultaneously on every social media network? Because, as I pointed out above, every network has its purpose and zeitgeist. What works on LinkedIn won't necessarily be welcomed by your Facebook fans.
The upshot? Choose wisely, my friends, so you too can be the most interesting cleantech company in the world.