Why isn’t Cleantech Using Social Media?

As I’ve written in the past about Sustainability and Social Media – the mix works well and should be embraced in particular by newcompanies looking to effectively connect and communicate with theirstakeholders; prospects, clients, press & media, investors,competitors, industry & trade associations, just to name a few. Yet, to my surprise many are dismissing Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedInas kid’s toys. Uncovering the reasons behind this trend, I turned tosome experts to help understand why the adoption of social media(especially within the cleantech vertical) is so low.

Andrew Becker, Director of Business Development at LittleFoot Energy mentioned difficulty in developing content compelling for customers.” He is also not sure if it reaches his target audience of C level executives, but maintains a social media presence, “to develop targeted recognition for our brand (but) less for landing new clients.” A conversation with Brendan Endicott, Senior Manager, Energy Markets at EnerNOC revealed that he “does not believe that social media will play asignificant role in helping the company generate leads until its targetaudience – mainly energy and facility managers – adopts the new medium.” This seems to be the standard answer.

In my interview with the Queen of Twitter, Laura Fitton, CEO/Founder of oneforty
she explains that it’s “Fear – it’s internal fear. Companies need to open their minds to where these new channels are leading and what nowbecomes possible.” Laura adds that, “Even if your targetaudience isn’t even on Twitter – and that’s pretty unlikely these days – there are serious benefits to engaging there. We’ve identified five: SEO, research, content generation, the “word of mouth pass-along”value, and of course the PR value given how many journalists are thereresearching stories and looking for sources.”

A great way to speed the adoption rate for its energy managementservice, so that it’s as “widely accepted a business practice asaccounting,” can be greatly enhanced through the use of social media.enerNOC’s vision as described above by its CEO Tim Healy during a recentCRO Summit, can become a reality as this message (and its supporting evidence thatcan include white papers, presentations, etc.) reaches more and morecustomers. I would argue then, that the use of new media by enerNOC (and others trying to enter and grow their market share) should be givenpriority in developing this communication platform. It’s free (asidefrom staff time), effective and can act as a lever for other companyinitiatives. The mass appeal of the Internet and now the ability toshare, interact and inform – is the perfect platform for advocating your company’s service or product offering.

To put some of these theories to the test, I turned to Molly Galler, Account Executive at Racepoint Group, who echoed Laura’s sentiments about “Fear of the unknown.” Their current clients (including enerNOC) “Utilize these platforms to distribute their own content and to monitorconversations about their brand, industry or competitors. As anyonethese days can be a content publisher, social media enables our clientsto be thought leaders, express their views and engage in two-waydialogue with their customers, prospects and brand advocates inreal-time.” Molly also makes a good point by stating that “Itis risky to not have a corporate Facebook page or Twitter account and to believe that everyone will want to visit your company’s website. Social media networks provide the public (and prospective clients and customers) with areal-time forum to share feedback. If you aren’t there to respond towhat is being said about your brand, you are risking the brand’sreputation. And the biggest take-a-way, “You are losing business by hoping social media is a fad.” Some good examples of how companies are harnessing the power of web 2.0, Molly says is by “Explaining cleantech issues to a community via dynamic, multimedia content such as YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, or links to fantasticarticles on a Facebook page.

Several messages to the marketing Manager at @Comverge were not returned. And neither were several requests to Gabe Shapiro, the Director of Community Programs at Next Step Living – a company who has done a fabulous job auditing my home’s energy usage and insulating it – but a lousy one of communicating this success.Although he acknowledged that they need to re-evaluate their socialmedia strategy, they seem to be stalled in deciding what to do withtheir two abandoned Twitter handles: @nextstepnetwork & @NextStepLivingI. Others like 1366 Technologies are still hoping someone will reach them via their static Contact Uspage, where unfortunately it’s impossible to share in the excitement of Chu’s visit. The ability to search and connect with other professionals is why LinkedIn is such a successful lead generation tool for job seekers. The samenetworking infrastructure is available to businesses, but only if theyare open to it.

I reached out to other cleantech company executives to get their take on the issue. Getting a response was a bit harder then I imagined. Itseems as though many have stuck their heads in the sand, hoping that the social media storm will blow over shortly. The old methodology ofpushing marketing material out has been turned on its head – and theearly adopters of social media stand a large chance of gainingsignificant market-share, all while leaving the competition in the dark. By understanding and leveraging the power of the social web, companiesseizing this opportunity to develop a following, increase visibility and build their reputation.

Are you taking advantage of the myriad of opportunities that socialmedia affords – or are you still shying away from this channel?



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