By: Lauren Wessell
How can IMC professionals use social media as a force for good? Sun and Wang (2019) published a research article answering this question. Throughout their research, they found that three components: product knowledge, perceived consumer effectiveness, and social media marketing all work together to positively impact a consumer’s intention to shop eco-friendly. Recent years have seen an increased interest in green living, partially due to the worsening climate crisis and how companies have started marketing green products online. When IMC professionals effectively utilize social media marketing, they help fight the climate crisis.
Why Shopping Eco-friendly is Import
The latest report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published on August 9, 2021, found that climate change is occurring at a faster pace than previously recorded over any period of time. For the first time in its report, the IPCC unequivocally attributed global warming to human action and influence. Since the industrial revolution, specifically the act of burning coal and other fossil fuels, there has been a direct correlation in the increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One important takeaway for coastal communities, especially Wilmington, is the increased rate of rising sea levels. Since 2006, the rate of sea-level rise has doubled (IPCC, 2021). While this development obviously has negative impacts, it has also caused a positive increased interest in living sustainably across the globe.
So, what can IMC professionals do to aid in fighting the climate crisis? Convince consumers to purchase green, eco-friendly products. While this may seem obvious, when IMC professionals utilize social media marketing effectively it is proven that consumers are more likely to purchase green products.
Social Media Marketing Improves Consumer Knowledge and Perceived Effectiveness
Sun and Wang (2019) found that, in general, knowledge regarding green products is fairly low. However, knowledge about a product and how effective consumers perceived those products to be were both positively impacted by the use of social media marketing. When social media marketing increases, consumers learn more about green products and in turn, view the products as more effective. There are many “green” products out there that do not live up to their name. Many companies like to slap a label with a green leaf on a new product or call their services eco-friendly to keep up with trends. This tendency does not bode well for companies who are actually producing green products, with a mission to help the environment.
To combat this, social media content should focus on education and highlight small, every day changes the average consumer can make. Companies can increase awareness about climate change through social media marketing while selling their product. One is not likely to do extensive research and gain full trust in a new product overnight. Companies should present the key facts and convince consumers to take small steps towards becoming eco-friendly. Someone who is not a climate expert may not completely change their power source based on one Instagram post, but they could be willing to switch from single-use plastic bags and containers with effective marketing.
Prosocial Behavior Increases Green Buying
Social media marketing not only increases awareness and perceived effectiveness but also encourages prosocial behavior (Sun and Wang, 2019). Prosocial behavior is defined as behavior that benefits others and society as a whole. Social media users are connected to all sorts of people online and, for better or worse, more likely to compare themselves and their lives to other users. When people communicate online, users feel pressured to change and improve their daily behaviors to match those of other influential users.
This change in behavior will hopefully lead towards buying environmentally friendly products. For example, you may follow a blogger who recently switched to all eco-friendly cleaning products. Viewing this user’s blog posts, interacting with their Instagram stories, and viewing their Twitter content will most likely make you more inclined to buy green cleaning products. This is not a new or radical idea, but Sun and Wang were able to prove this behavior.
Young People are More Likely to Shop Sustainably
IMC professionals should also target younger audiences with green social media marketing. Sun and Wang (2019) concluded; younger people have a more positive attitude towards shopping sustainably than other generations. They are typically more likely to support green initiatives for several reasons. Simply put, they care more about how their present actions impact the future environment, since it is an environment they must live in. Additionally, young people are very active on social media. Marketing campaigns will have the most impact on consumers’ intention to buy green products when they are created for younger audiences.
Social Media can Fight the Climate Crisis
The research report by Sun and Wang proved that social media marketing increases consumers’ knowledge and perceived effectiveness of a product. When both of these things happen, consumers are more likely to purchase green products. When IMC professionals effectively use social media marketing, they increase consumers’ intention to shop sustainably. While this article focuses on buying green products, which is a growing industry, the results are indicative of the impact social media has on a variety of markets. It is essential for IMC practitioners to know how the use of social media affects consumers’ buying practices, especially when buying green can help save our planet.
Sun, Y., & Wang, S. (2019). Understanding consumers’ intentions to purchase green products in the social media marketing context. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 31(4), 860-878. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liblink.uncw.edu/10.1108/APJML-03-2019-0178
IPCC, 2021: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J. B. R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.
Lim, L. (March 17, 2019). There is no planet b [photograph]. Unsplash. http://unsplash.com/photos/ycW4YxhrWHM
Yurasits, B. (July 9, 2019). Plastic disposable cups [photograph]. Unsplash. http://unsplash.com/photos/YFiHaY2DVyE