Social media is one of the most effective communication tools today. It has a different position from traditional media tools (such as newspapers magazines) in terms of the frequency and ease of use of people and the speed of dissemination of information. The ups and downs of social media are constantly being discussed, and the speed of making any topic popular around the world is very high. The power of social media is undeniable in reaching people on critical issues for our world, such as the environment, climate crisis, energy policies, ecosystem order, and the decline of animal species. Hence, sustainability projects also need the power and influence of social media.
So why do we need social media influence for sustainability? First of all, social media has an important role in raising awareness by disseminating information about political, economic, and social events. It is always easier to disseminate articles, research, visual, written, or audio content to large audiences that people do not want to read. These days people’s reading and research habits are lost, but their smartphone addiction is increasing. Thus, one of the ways to attract the attention of the majority of the public is to produce content for social media. Almost every institution and individual, from brands to big companies, from political parties to charities, is trying to make their voices heard through social media and increase their number of followers. What exists when raising awareness is that it is effective in changing the habits of individuals to work.
Recently, advertisements have completely changed the online shopping behavior of people through influencers. This situation can be applied for sustainability in the same way, and individual sustainability can be increased with content, videos, interviews that will increase awareness. From the products you buy to the car you drive; It is possible to make almost everything in people's lives sustainable, from your grocery shopping to the bag you use. As long as it is shown with suggestions on how to do this, sustainability is made into fashion. According to a study, consumers' purchase intentions are mostly based on the topics they see on social media. This situation is related to people's willingness to spend on sustainable products has the information they get from social media. Research shows that consumers addicted to social media are more likely to buy sustainable products, work for a sustainable world, and produce projects for this purpose. According to a study by Forbes, more consumers are motivated to take action on environmental sustainability in 2020, and 68 percent of consumers are pushing brands and organizations to reduce their environmental impact.
The image shows how consumers create relational value for sustainability through social media. Users create multimedia content via a social media platform. These contents create a material, symbolic, social value, creating cultural ecosystem services (CED benefits), which initiates a digital collective evaluation process. From the data of individual-based social media platforms, the social values (communal values) in transformation into an environmental change begin mutually for sustainability. Thus, sustainability provides individual social media communication and social benefit.
Social media makes consumers and institutions responsible for sustainability at the same time, and this is called corporate sustainability. Corporate sustainability refers to any company's attempts to evaluate and take responsibility for its impact on environmental and social well-being. It publishes the sustainability actions and projects of institutions as research reports strengthen their corporate identity and increase their recognition by promoting them on social media. On the other hand, institutions and brands need to change their policies and respect the environment and nature because even if the consumption habits of individuals change, the quality and number of sustainable institutions need to increase to be able to influence societies and reach large-scale audiences. The way to reduce the impact of the climate crisis and prevent existing waste problems is to achieve environmental sustainability by changing large-scale institutional policies. The more institutions, brands, and factories become a part of this transformation, the more their customer portfolio will be affected by this change, and the less their negative environmental impact will be.
The biggest difference between social media from traditional media types (newspapers, magazines, radio, etc.) is that people can be directly involved in events and situations. It is much easier and faster to comment, share information, and be known with smart devices. People can share their thoughts and interact with other people whenever and however they want. There are many positive aspects to this situation and its negative aspects. The first is that environmental activists are more in control, the speed of actions, signature campaigns, and online donations increase. Independent activists, environmental organizations, and people who make sustainable production can quickly expand their sphere of influence. Greta Thunberg, who was chosen as the person of the year in Time magazine, Vanessa Nakate, the founder of the Ugandan 'Rise Up Climate Movement' movement, Isaias Hernandez, who gives the secrets of zero waste and sustainable living, are just a few of the well-known activists who made a sound for a sustainable world. While waiting for the policy changes of the governments, it is much more practical to draw attention on an individual basis with social media. Young activists are much more successful than most politicians in reducing the consumption rate of many, especially the younger generation, increasing their awareness, and drawing their attention to environmental issues and sustainability. The main reason for this is that they can directly connect with people. An activist with millions of followers can interact directly with features such as live broadcast chats, messaging, commenting, which effectively increases people's awareness and behavioral changes.
Social media seems to be a tool that allows us to have more trouble while keeping us away from the real world and the troubles that often enter our lives. Maybe this is the case most of the time, but there is the fact that social media is the fastest means of making a documentary, person, subject popular and attracting my attention. For sustainability to be a part of our lives, we must continue to use this communication power for more beneficial purposes.