Social Networking and Online Marketing for the Ecopreneur

Online Green NetworkingI admit it, I am addicted to the internet. However, this addiction isn’t all bad –  my hard earned internet savvy has paid off time and time again in the form of referrals and new clients. Without even having to overtly advertise, I have gotten many inquiries about my services and quite a few good clients from my online activities. I’ve also made a lot of friends in my field and networked with other designers that I can bounce ideas off of and partner with on creative pursuits, all online. Yes, the internet is a glorious thing.

One of my favorite things about using the internet to promote my business is that it’s green and inexpensive (if not free). So online marketing and social networking is a great way to get your name out there without using any paper or creating any trash. A good way to start your foray into the world of online marketing is to first establish a web site for your business. This will often be your potential customers’ first impression of your company, so it will be an important investment in both time and money. Once you have a web site, networking through social media sites is a great way to promote it and drive traffic to your site. Online marketing is a strategy that’s becoming more and more popular among entrepreneurs, and thankfully it is one with minimal impact on the planet.

There are countless social networking web sites out there. The tricky part is narrowing them down to just the ones you’ll actually be able to keep up to date on and those that fits your company’s target market the best. When creating a business profile on any social media site, be sure to share only information you want the entire world to see, and avoid making your profile too personal. You can always create a personal profile as well, just keep the two separate. Once you’ve found a few sites you like, spend some time on the sites and get to know the community before posting anything. Many times, straight marketing pitches don’t do well on social media sites (you don’t want to be labeled a spammer), so keep your marketing subtle and stay relevant to the topics discussed. I find all I really need is to add my web site links to my profile and my signature. Be careful, some sites become quite addicting!

Here’s a brief list of some social media sites that I’ve found useful for networking, bringing in visits to my site, and meeting others in my field or the green market niche.

  • StumbleUpon is the granddaddy of social media sites. Install the toolbar to “stumble” around the web, keep track of your favorite sites, and build a following of stumblers. Submitting links to StumbleUpon is a great way to drive traffic to your site.
  • LinkedIn is a professional networking site that business owners will find especially helpful. It’s a way to manage and make connections, rub elbows with other professionals, and even find jobs or employees. There are groups within LinkedIn such as Sustainability Working Group that cater to various niches.
  • Responsible World Citizen is a niche online network dedicated to promoting social responsibility and sustainability. It’s a community for conscious business owners and ecopreneurs, so I’m sure you’ll fit right in!
  • Ning is not really a social networking site, but it allows you to create your own social network, or join one that others have created. So it acts as a hub for themed social networks. A search for “green business” on Ning turned up a bunch of results worth checking out.
  • Hugg is the Digg of green. It’s a collection of green news, articles and web sites submitted by the community, so it’s a great place to post your most recent green-themed article from your business blog. Brought to you by the folks at TreeHugger, it’s a great networking tool (and source of green news) for sustainable businesses.
  • Co-op America’s Green Business Network is a useful site for connecting with other green businesses. Co-op America offers many additional benefits, such as green certification, a listing in their directory, and many other useful resources, to businesses that become members.
  • Don’t forget the Green Options network! From advertising options to the discussion forum, there are a lot of great opportunities to network with like-minded greenies.

There are many more social media sites, from Facebook to MySpace to Digg, that can help you network and bring in traffic to your web site. Many offer groups you can join on specific topics and can be a great place to find potential customers, clients, and vendors. Be sure to look for groups that fit your market niche and industry, as well as those promoting green living and sustainability. With online marketing, it’s helpful to cast a wide net so that links to your company site are all over the web. But as with anything, the more time and effort you put into each social media site, the more you’ll get out of it. So it may be wise to pick a few sites to focus your efforts on. There are definitely enough to keep you busy, the hard part is choosing just a handful and not becoming a complete internet junkie. For some of us, it’s far too late for that!

Related Articles on the Green Options Network:

  • Times They Are a Changing: Green Marketing Tips for Eco Entrepreneurs in 2008 on Ecopreneurist.
  • Ten Ways to Change the World Through Social Media on Sustainablog.
  • PR Tips For Green Entrepreneurs on Ecopreneurist.

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About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site, volksvegan.org, or unplug magazine.