Throughout 2023, sustainable brands demonstrated on social media just how they sustain their high engagement. Whether they were showing off their environmentally-friendly practices on TikTok videos or tweeting about environmental issues on Twitter, these brands used their platforms to show off their values and what they stand for.
Sustainability isn’t just a trendy buzzword. For many people, it’s a practice that they focus on in their everyday lives, and they want to support companies that feel the same. According to a study from McKinsey and NielsenIQ that looked at retail sales growth between 2018 and 2022, products that made environmental, social, and governance (ESG) claims outperformed those without such claims.
It’s not enough to just stand for sustainability. You have to promote it and show how you stand for it, as the top sustainable brands on social media demonstrate, especially if you want to reach younger generations. Sprout Social’s research found that younger generations want to support brands that align with their values. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2019, more than half of all Americans are millennials or younger, which suggests the importance of tailoring your marketing toward these generations.
The best sustainable brands on social media aren’t just talking the talk. They’re talking about how they walk the walk, meaning that they utilize social media to get their message out and show how they’re an ally to sustainable causes.
However, these brands use many different tactics beyond their sustainable messaging to garner attention and engagement online. Many of these trends aren’t just valuable to the sustainable sector. Let’s get into some takeaways from the best sustainable brands that you can use in your own social media marketing.
7 Trends From the Best Sustainable Brands on Social Media
1. Find ways to talk about your values
Sprout Social’s research found that 73% of Gen Z consumers think it’s important for brands to raise awareness and take a stand on sensitive issues like sustainability. These findings tie into the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR), or the idea that companies must be socially accountable toward themselves, stakeholders, and the general public.
Younger generations, in particular, believe that brands should understand and address their CSR, and they’re more likely to purchase from a brand that is socially accountable. A 2023 study determined that focusing on their CSR had an overall positive impact on companies’ financial performance.
A social media platform is exactly that: a platform. It’s a place where you can stand up and talk about something, a tactic that outdoor clothing company Patagonia uses throughout their social channels. The brand’s top tweet of 2023 by engagement rate was a call to action, in which Patagonia asked its followers to urge the Biden administration to put an end to the Willow project.
According to the National Resource Defense Council, the Willow project is a proposal for oil drilling on the single-largest tract of public land in the U.S. Located in Alaska, this area is a crucial nesting ground for migratory birds and home to millions of caribou. Drilling on this land, which is already suffering from coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, and melting sea ice, will only exacerbate the problem and continue to set back the fight against climate change. Each year, the project would release pollution that’s equivalent to the amount produced by two million gas-powered cars.
This cause ties into Patagonia’s values as a company that’s focused on protecting the environment, and the brand’s followers seem to like that Patagonia stands up online for causes that matter to them. The tweet calling for an end to the Willow project earned an engagement rate of 0.78%, 52x the average engagement rate for retail brands on Twitter in 2023, according to our 2023 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report.
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2. Find ways to talk about how you back up your values
Beyond talking about what you stand for, the best sustainable brands on social media also talk about how they’re backing up their promises. Some companies talk about sustainability, but when you dive into their production processes, you’ll discover that their practices are pretty far from what they’re saying they believe in.
This tactic is called “greenwashing.” Essentially, it’s when a company says they are environmentally friendly without actually backing up their claim or even engaging in practices that directly go against that claim. According to research by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, 42% of “green” claims are exaggerated, deceptive, or downright false.
Greenwashing depletes consumer trust and can ultimately hurt your bottom line, which is why it’s essential to be open about your sustainable practices. Transparency can help build trust with your buyers and show them that you’re engaging in processes that fit the values you claim to stand for, like the shoe brand Thousand Fell did on their TikTok account throughout 2023.
One of the brand’s top TikToks of the year spelled out the practices the company has in place to prevent their shoes from ever ending up in a landfill. The TikTok earned an engagement rate by view of 11.4%, 1.7x the average engagement rate by view of the top sustainable brands on TikTok.
3. Create easy-to-understand giveaways
Throughout Rival IQ’s research, we’ve found that giveaways can be a great engagement rate boost. Shoe company Allbirds utilized giveaways throughout 2023 on their social media channels to score high engagement and new followers.
We’ve found that not all giveaways are created equal. Those with unclear instructions on how to enter, too many steps to enter, and unclear prizes can deter engagement, resulting in a post that doesn’t perform as well as you might have hoped. However, Allbirds’s giveaway posts were direct and didn’t place too many barriers to entry.
The brand’s top two posts by engagement rate on Instagram for 2023 were both giveaways. The top post gave away the brand’s newest shoe, the Wool Runner 2, with a pair for the winner and one friend. The second-best-performing post followed a similar format, with the winner getting a pair of their original Wool Runner shoe for themselves and a friend in honor of the Wool Runner’s seven-year anniversary.
Both posts used the same entry methods, asking followers to like the post, follow Allbirds, and tag a friend. The top post also allowed for more entries by asking followers to comment multiple times to tag more friends and share what brings you comfort, as well as allowing for further entries if followers share that post to their Instagram story and tag the brand. The rules are clearly spelled out and found in the caption, where they’re easy to find.
These posts also both earned an engagement rate of over 1.05%, with the next highest post only coming in at 0.89%. In the case of the top post, it garnered a 1.84% engagement rate, about 1.5x the average engagement rate of the retail industry on Instagram in 2023.
4. Up your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) means optimizing your content to make it more easily discoverable. In many cases, people think of Google and other similar search engines when they think of SEO. However, many social media platforms have their own search function, which allows people to find related posts on the application.
According to TINT’s State of Social & User-Generated Content 2023 report, 76% of social media users search for new brands and products on social media, especially on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On these platforms, in particular, it’s essential to use search-optimized keywords to help your posts get discovered by those looking for related content.
This tactic is something that women’s clothing brand Ninety Percent used throughout 2023. On Instagram and Facebook, the company used trending hashtags like #SustainableFashion, making their content more easily found if one were to search for posts and accounts related to sustainable clothing.
One of the brand’s top posts by engagement rate on Facebook promoted the company’s autumn and winter collection and used hashtags like #ResponsibleFashion and #Monochrome. The post garnered an engagement rate of 0.30%, 2.5x the average engagement rate of the retail industry on Facebook in 2023.
5. Lean into your brand voice
Your brand voice is an essential part of your brand identity. Are you more irreverent or serious? Poetic or direct? Your brand voice is how you speak throughout your copy and content, and that voice should extend to your social media.
A unique brand voice can differentiate you from your competitors. Though there are many sustainable clothing brands, Reformation leans toward a brand voice that differs from that of other competitors. While many brands in this space take on a more serious voice, as many of the topics they discuss are serious, Reformation isn’t afraid to get a little silly. This silliness is something that its fans have come to expect, and they appear to be more likely to engage when this light-hearted attitude comes out.
Consider, for instance, Reformation’s top tweet by engagement rate of 2023. The tweet was in response to a fan writing, “The Reformation email copywriter hasn’t written anything really insane or nonsensical in a while. I hope she’s okay.” In response, Reformation’s Twitter account simply posted a picture from one of their recent emails saying, “Like regular clothes, only more chic. Not unlike Parisian bed bugs.”
The tweet pokes fun at Paris’s recent bed bug problem. For some brands, this post would be inappropriate or unprofessional, but for Reformation, it fits right in with their “nonsensical” brand voice. The tweet earned an engagement rate of 3.18%, 212x the average engagement rate of the retail industry on Twitter in 2023.
6. Partner with the right influencers
Though the influencer marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past several years, it’s not going anywhere. Choosing the right influencers can help you develop greater trust with consumers. According to findings by Matter Communications, 69% of people trust influencers, friends, and family over information coming directly from a brand.
However, who you work with is also crucial. The agency also found that trust varies depending on who the influencer is. While 61% of people said they trust “relatable personalities,” only 11% said they trust “celebrity influencers.” When putting together your influencer marketing plans for 2024, the top thing to remember is that authenticity is key, which is why you want to partner with someone authentic to your brand’s image.
If you’re working in sustainable fashion, for instance, you might want to work with someone who holds similar values, which they share on their social media. You can also consider working with someone who fits in with your brand voice. If your brand is fun-loving and focuses on being relatable, you might want to work with someone who fits that sort of attitude.
Sustainable clothing brand Everlane used this tactic to secure one of their top TikToks of 2023. The video is of influencer @ellasandramuse, who showcases her fun and relatable personality throughout her videos. Her style also fits right in with the type of clothing Everlane makes. The result of the partnership was an engagement rate by view of 14.1%, 2.12x the average engagement rate by view of the top sustainable brands on TikTok.
7. Keep up to date on trends
Trends age quickly on social media, especially when it comes to TikTok. If you’re not up-to-date on online trends and post something tied to a trend from even just a few weeks ago, you can make your account look dated. Instead of capitalizing on the trend, you may actually deter engagement.
When you learn about a trend you want to follow, it’s essential to move quickly and create fresh content around the idea. Sustainable clothing brand Quince used this guideline to find success on TikTok throughout 2023.
One of Quince’s top TikTok videos of the year utilized the “coastal cowgirl” trend. Coastal cowgirl was an aesthetic that was popular in spring and summer of 2023, and it was a blend of western and beach styles. On the fashion industry front, videos went viral of people in cowboy boots and breezy dresses or jeans and airy button-downs. Meanwhile, in the home decor space, people were showing off how they had turned their homes into a mix of a beach house and a rustic home in the country.
Quince took advantage of this trend by making a video about how their sustainable products can work with the coastal cowboy aesthetic. They posted it in July, which allowed them to take advantage of the peak of the trend. The video gained an engagement rate by view of 8.3%, about 1.25x the average engagement rate by view of the top sustainable brands on TikTok.
To determine the top sustainable brands on social media, we compiled a list of some of the most prominent sustainable brands on the market. We then compared their engagement rates against the average engagement rates of the retail industry on each social media platform, according to our Social Media Industry Benchmark Report for 2023.
In addition to beating this engagement rate, brands must have also posted at least once per week on the social media platform to be chosen as a top sustainable brand.
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Wrapping Up the Top Sustainable Brands on Social Media
When we look at the best sustainable brands on social media, there’s a lot we can learn from them. For one thing, they’re not just talking about being sustainable. They’re showing what they do to stand for their values.
While they’re using tried-and-true tactics like giveaways and honing their brand voice, they’re also acknowledging the changing landscape of social media by optimizing their content for search engines, following trends, and partnering with relatable influencers.
Looking to learn more about ways to attract engagement on social media? Check out some of the takeaways from the top outdoor brands on social media.