Research Paper: Green on Instagram

Social media has been utilized for spreading awareness, from hashtag activism to accounts dedicated to speaking out for a specific cause. In the realm of environmentalism, the WWF’s endangered species emoji campaign utilized Twitter to create awareness and gather donations. But what about when activism, influencers, and corporations amalgamate on Instagram?

As an advocate for environmentalism, Instagram has become a wealth of information on green living for me and a source for exploring new, sustainable products. As I started following environmentally focused accounts, Instagram’s algorithm spit out more green-centered posts on my explore pages, and as I began visiting pages of green businesses, my feed became saturated with ads for sustainable products. Social media has given a platform for green businesses and influencers to communicate about eco-friendly lifestyles, products, and issues. and consequently, they have built up online communities centered around eco-consciousness. Instagram is a powerful platform for green-conscious people to receive information, for businesses to draw in consumers, and for influencers to create communities of eco-minded people. 

Before diving into the ways in which social media functions for eco-conscious communities, influencers, and business, I want to first dive into how this presence of businesses and communities on online platforms have altered the way in which we interact with and hold companies responsible for their ecological footprint. “Greenwashing” is the over-exaggeration or fabrication of a firm’s sustainability measurements. In Tweetjacked: The Impact of Social Media on Corporate Greenwash, Lyon and Montgomery’s hypothesis and research focused on social media’s ability to mitigate corporate greenwashing. According to their research, social media platforms enable “consumers and activists to call attention to and mobilize opposition against corporate communications that are deemed to be greenwash” (753). Social media’s participatory affordance constructs a two-way communication model which allows consumers and activists access to these companies, more so than traditional modes of advertising media (754), such as television or physical advertisements. Customers can better “demand authenticity of information” (751) when they are able to comment on posts and call out businesses on their social media platforms.

By nature of the interaction available through social media, consumers undertake a more active role in communication, conducting word of mouth online and engaging with the company, and other consumers in compelling and persuasive ways

Kristie Byrum

Not only has social media itself become an asset to flagging greenwashing, but the GreenWashing Index website once allowed users to post advertisements from their social media which promote a business’s sustainable efforts; others then could rate the advertisements and comment on their validity. The website allowed social media users to become whistleblowers on ads that pop up on their Facebook, Instagram, etc. Unfortunately, the company that designed the index no longer exits. Lyon and Montgomery go on to include with their research, “This improved access to information increases the risks faced by companies when they communicate selectively about their environmental performance and makes them less likely to greenwash” (752). Firms with strong environmental reputations thrive on social media because skepticism usually does not plague their sites, but this conversely has driven companies with questionable and little sustainable focus to steer away from social media. Essentially, the greenest companies face the least risk of having a social media presence.  

This is all to say, social media and the internet have become a growing space for green businesses and influencers to get their products and messages out to the public. Nyilasy and Gangadharbatla’s study in How to reach green consumers on the internet? Digital and social media strategies for addressing the environmentally-conscious concluded that “green consumption is strongly correlated with Internet usage” (1). Their study looked into the broad digital and then more specific social media usage of green consumers, finding that when it came to different types of media, social media’s more informative capabilities allow for the dissemination of environmental issues, while traditional forms of media are more rooted in pathos and do not have the ease of accessibility to e-commerce (5). The greater green consumers showed an overall larger increase in media consumption in comparison to the lower green consumption groups, revealing social media’s role in promoting green consumerism. The authors conjectured that this has to do with the “badge value” connected with green consumption (17), or the social brag that comes with caring about a cause. This study revealed that there is an important connection between social media usage and green consumption, and that their correlation may be due to the underlying societal currency when consumers post and promote sustainable products.

Kristie Byrum in ‘Hey Friend, Buy Green’: Social Media Use to Influence Eco-Purchasing Involvement recognizes the social benefits of consumers who participate with green businesses, creating a status around “going green”. However green consumerism may play into certain social statuses, when this green consumerism is shared on social media platforms, it promotes a green, sustainable lifestyle to others. Social media allows for consumers to influence others to purchase green: “By nature of the interaction available through social media, consumers undertake a more active role in communication, conducting word of mouth online and engaging with the company, and other consumers in compelling and persuasive ways” (212). This active role creates an online community space where going green and activism becomes something to strive for, a social badge that could possibly be inherently selfish but nonetheless helps the planet. 

The ability of a business to foster a community on social media is what blew up companies like AllBirds and FinalStraw. In New business Set up for Branding Strategies on Social Media—Instagram, the authors mention “brand community” and highlight its relevance in developing followership on Instagram, as this community brings together people with a shared interest in the brand and leads to “a subculture around the brand with its own values, myths, hierarchy, rituals and vocabulary” (15). People creating videos about “saving the sea turtles” while using their FinalStraw built up hype around the product and created an online community around the business. AllBirds has been noted for its consumer community on Instagram: “Most brands look at social platforms like Instagram to push out product messages, but Allbirds is using Instagram for product ideas and customer feedback”. The Vice President of Marketing, Julie Channing, said that AllBirds “has changed content strategies based on its followers’ reactions.” The brand was even in Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2017 report as one of the most responsive brands. The photo below is in AllBirds highlights, exhibiting their use of Instagram to directly ask consumers what they want to see from the product and company.

Consumer empowerment is also the ability of digital advertising to “by-pass consumer resistance and skepticism by giving the consumer an active role in the advertising process” (Hudders, van Reijmersdal and Poels). Consumers are involved in the process of developing and building a brand through their own feelings of empowerment to comment, share, create content, and promote companies. As a result, the distance between businesses and consumers has decreased with these participatory modes of comments, sharing, and hashtags. Branches of connections can be made on Instagram by simply tagging a company on a story highlighting the product. 

The ways in which businesses utilize their Instagram platforms also influence how these communities are created. Del Rowe’s Disappearing Content is Marketing Magic addresses how disappearing content on Instagram stories allows for exclusivity and immediacy for consumers. These real-time posts allow for new methods of brand community building through visual elements, brand excitement, or interactive questions and polls. The article also mentioned the value of speaking to audiences by sharing Instagram stories that give inside access to a company’s inner workings which bridge the gap between labor and consumers.

Another aspect of creating a community around business and sustainability is the influencer. “Digital natives” who grew up in a digitally interconnected world are developing business and communication skills on these platforms (Coll and Mico 88). Within businesses, especially startups, “growth hackers” is a new term whose goal is to be creative with media so as to not spend capital on traditional marketing campaigns (89). Often these “growth hackers” look to influencers to generate growth. Influencer marketing also includes those “micro-influencers” who are just average Instagram users who are now considered apart of communications strategies as they also share their favorite products with their followers or comment on a business’s Instagram. Influencers have become a part of brand marketing. Intellifluence is a marketing service specifically designed to connect green business to green influencers. Influencers will receive free products or cash in return for their review, while businesses get exposure on media platforms.

Below are some examples of the Instagram posts from influencers who are clearly promoting products by featuring them in their posts, @-ing the Instagram page, using hashtags, and explaining why they enjoy the products and how it is sustainable.

Some green influencers have even started their own businesses, completely amalgamating eco-consciousness, influencer marketing, and green products into one account. Laura Singer, @trashisfortosssers, created her own sustainable store: Package Free Shop. She also made Forbes 30 Under 30 – Social Entrepreneurs 2020 list. Amber Boyers, @theconsciouscut, created a sustainable swim brand: Baiia. Below you can see the two women’s Instagrams and their locations, comments, and hashtags as relating to green living and how their lifestyle and business reflects this.

Business and influencers have been able to feed off of and bolster sustainable causes on Instagram, creating a space within Instagram for an eco-consciousness community to grow, utilizing social media marketing to draw in like-minded people to buy like-minded products. Technology has often been equated with impersonal communication and superficial relationships, but Instagram has allowed for the formation of communities to develop around environmental awareness and green consumerism. #gogreen


Sources

Bryum, Kristie“‘Hey Friend, Buy Green’: Social Media Use to Influence Eco-Purchasing Involvement.” Environmental Communication, vol. 13., no. 2, Nov. 2019, pp. 209-221, https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2017.1308404

Coll, Patricia and Josep Lluis Mico. “Influencer Marketing in the Growth Hacking strategy of digital brands.” Observatorio Journal, vol. 13, no. 2, 2019, pp. 87-105. OberCom, http://obs.obercom.pt/index.php/obs/article/view/1409

Del Rowe, Sam. “Disappearing Content is Marketing Magic: Platforms like Instagram Stories and Snapchat allow marketers to reach new audiences.” CRM Magazine, vol. 22, no. 2, Mar. 2018, pp. 34-37. EBSCOhost.

Hudders, Liselot, et al. “Digital Advertising and Consumer Empowerment.” Cyberpsychology, vol. 13, no. 2, June 2019, pp. 1–7.  EBSCOhost.

Latiff, Zulkifli Abd. and Nur Ayuni Safira Safiee. “New business Set up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram.” Procedia Computer Science, vol. 72, 2015, pp. 13-23. ScienceDirect. 

Lyon, Thomas P., and A. Wren Montgomery. “Tweetjacked: The Impact of Social Media on Corporate Greenwash.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 118, no. 4, 2013, pp. 747–757. JSTOR.

Nyilasy, Gergely and Harsha Gangadharbatla. “How to reach green consumers on the internet? Digital and social media strategies for addressing the environmentally conscious”. 2016 American Academy of Advertising Conference, March 2016, Seattle, WA. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286279151_How_to_reach_green_consumers_on_the_internet_Digital_and_social_media_strategies_for_addressing_the_environmentally_conscious

Website Reflection, End of Semester

I was able to make my website more personalized in the design with the photo graph at the top of the page and the color scheme. The strangest part about creating this website was that I was also editing my SquareSpace site for my creative project. I think working with both revealed the negatives and positives of both website builders. WordPress is more streamline than SquareSpace but is more difficult to customize and really add personality. A large part of that could be due to the fact that I have a paid version of SquareSpace, so comparing a free and paid platform may be unfair. However, considering WordPress is free, I am impressed by the actual set up of the website where you create your own website. Making a website was frustrating at some points but luckily there are so many resources on google to help. I will not be using this WordPress site in the future, but I will be using the SquareSpace blog to continue posting blogs, sharing my photos, adding more graphics, and maybe including my poetry! Making a website allowed me to see the value in having media and tech skills.

Creative Project Final

Instagram: @simply_kayleerays

Blog: https://simplykayleerays.com/

My project was to mimic green influencers by utilizing an Instagram and blog. In order to fully see what my projects includes you will need to look at my Instagram feed, the stories which are highlighted on my bio, and my blog posts on my website. I used my Instagram in conjunction with my blog, posting on my feed about some of my blog posts. I utilized Adobe Photo Shop, Canva, Adobe Spark, and Squarespace. I have little to no experience with Photo Shop and Canva so it was challenging at first to make the graphics, but I found myself falling in love with the design process. In the Ethique graphic below, I used Photoshop to cut out the bars to then past on the leaf graphic that I designed. I also had a Squarespace site before this project but never worked on making it usable. I upgraded the menus and the look of the website to seem more professional and more personal flare. I included a whole page for my “eco-life” posts and for my graphics. Some graphics are included below, but please click here to see them better. My project reflects my research on green marketing and green Instagrammers as I essentially became a green Instagrammer and marketer for eco-conscious products. One of the canva graphics that I turned into a video using Adobe Spark Post has around 37 views right now (I utilized hashtags to get people to my Instagram; some even clicked on my blog!). Eco-consciousness has a place on social media. Though it is still niche, I believe products like AllBirds, whose eco-friendly shoes have blown up, will drive more people to follow green brands and green Instagrammers. We talked a lot about influencers in class, but mainly in a negative light. I wanted to show with my research and project that social media can have a good impact too; that it can be utilized for more than just stereotypical motives.

I hope to actually keep the blog going and maybe even the Instagram! I also am going to continue to make graphics.

Research Essay: Rough Draft

  1. Introduction
    1. Social Media has been utilized for all types of movements and to spread awareness from hashtag activism to pages dedicated to speaking out for a specific cause. In the realm of environmentalism, the WWF’s endangered species emoji campaign utilized the social media platform Twitter to create awareness and gather donations. But what about when activism and corporations amalgamate on social media platforms? As an environmentalist, social media, especially Instagram, has been a source of information and consumption for me. As I started following environmental pages, Instagram’s algorithm output more green-centered posts on my explore pages and as I began visiting pages of green businesses, my feed became saturated with more green products. I am aiming with this paper to look into this phenomenon on social media that may be niche to environmentalists and zero-wasters but nonetheless is making a forefront in the consciousness of many consumers within a rapidly deteriorating environment. 
    2. Main Point
      1. Social media is a powerful platform for green businesses to draw in consumers and create communities of eco-minded people. 
  2. Greenwashing & Social Media as a Solution
    1. What is Greenwashing & how can social media affect it? 
      1. In “Tweetjacked: The Impact of Social Media on Corporate Greenwash”, Lyon and Mongomtery’s hypothesis and research focus on the effect of social media to mitigate corporate greenwashing, which is the fabrication of sustainable measures of that company. 
      2.  Social Media platforms enable “consumers and activists to call attention to and mobilize opposition against corporate communications that are deemed to be greenwash” (753).  Social media’s participatory affordance constructs a two-way communication model that allows can access for consumers and activists more so than traditional models of media (754). Customers can better “demand authenticity of information”(751) when they are able to physically comment on posts and call out businesses on their own posts and tweets. Firms with strong environmental reputations thrive on social media because they are less likely to have skepticism plague their sites. 
  3. Green-Focused Businesses Marketing and Social Media Relationships
    1. Consumers & Social Media
      1. Nyilasy’s and Gangadharbatla’s study in “How to reach green consumers on the internet? Digital and social media strategies for addressing the environmentally conscious” concluded that “green consumption is strongly correlated with Internet usage” (1). Their study looked into questioning what are the broad digital and then more specific social media usage of green consumers, finding that when it came to different types of media, social media’s more informative capabilities allow for the dissemination of environmental issues, while traditional media such as television are more based on emotion and do not have the ease of accessibility to e-commerce (5). The greater green consumers showed an overall larger increase in media consumption in comparison to the lower green consumption groups, revealing the role of social media to promote green consumerism. The authors conjectured that this has to do with the “badge value” connected with green consumption (17). This study reveals that there is an important connection between social media usage and green consumption, that their correlation may have an underlying societal currency created on social media when consumers post and promote certain products to their followers. Kristie Byrum in her article “‘Hey Friend, Buy Green’: Social Media Use to Influence Eco-Purchasing Involvement” recognizes the social benefits of consumers who participate on social media with green businesses and create a status around going green. Social media allows for consumers to influence others to purchase green: “By nature of the interaction available through social media, consumers undertake a more active role in communication, conducting word of mouth online and engaging with the company, and other consumers in compelling and persuasive ways” (212). This active role creates an online community space where going green and activism provides social benefits.
    2. Business Advertising & Social Media
  4. Green Influencers on Instagram
    1. Influencers & Business 
    2. Observational Notes on Instagram Green Influencers

Creative Project Rough Draft

So far I have completely revamped an old SquareSpace site, I created a year ago and then never touched. I utilized youtube videos and help sites to make it look more professional and unique to my style, creating a blog section for “eco-life” in which I will write articles that connect to my Instagram Posts. I so far have written one blog: “Fall for Sustainability“. I also then have created the instagram simply_kayleerays in which I will be posting to the main feed or adding to the Instagram story three to four times a week. I have been utilizing Abode Photoshop and Illustrator to work on graphics for the stories, which I have never really used before, so it’s been a little frustrating. I have also been using Adobe Spark and plan to use Canva.

Here is my plan for the upcoming weeks:

  • Leaf Shave Razor 
    • Main Feed
      • Photo along side other razor with explanation 
    •  IG story
      • Adobe Illustrator Graphic
      • Video
  • Ethique
    • Main Feed 
      • Photo holding up, background greenery 
    • IG story
      • Adobe Illustrator Graphic 
      • Video of use 
  • Second Hand Clothing
    • Main Feed
      • Compilation of thrifted photos: edit collage with Adobe Illustrator
    • IG Story
      • Infographic with Canva
    • Blog
      • My Journey
  • Study Abroad tips
    • Blog
      • What I did in Spain 
      • What I aim to do in Copenhagen
    • Post
      • Photos of how I brought my bar products
  • College Student Tips
    • Blog
      • Coffee reusable mug @ Kaldis 
      • Shopping for low waste food
      • Donating
      • Awareness

Here is a sample of a Adobe Illustrator Graphic I created:

Creative Project Proposal

My plan for the project is to imitate sustainability influencers from Instagram. Many influencers post photos of sustainable fashion outfits, products, and food; some post infographics or sustainable tips for daily living, DIY creations, articles, videos, etc. I will be using these points of reference to create my own sustainable Instagram and to write blog posts on a SquareSpace website. I have already begun by creating my Instagram for this project: @simply_kayleerays. I have posted a graphic I designed with Adobe Spark Post, an iPhone application. I will also be utilizing Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create infographics and graphics. I have had Creative Cloud for Adobe Premiere but have not until now had the chance to utilize the other Creative Cloud applications. I will spend time learning to use the Adobe platforms to create my Instagram infographics and stories. 


Annotated Bibliography

Below are the articles I hope to utilize in my research paper on green marketing in Instagram. Though I could not find promising sources on this niche subject area, I was able to find plenty on social media’s influence on marketing and advertising, especially concerning the development of influencers.

Latiff, Zulkifli Abd. and Nur Ayuni Safira Safiee. “New business Set up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram.” Procedia Computer Science, vol. 72, 2015, pp. 13-23. ScienceDirect, https://www-sciencedirect-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/science/article/pii/S1877050915035619  

The article established a good basis for understanding marketing on Instagram for businesses, especially when it comes to growing a brand. The authors mentioned this term “brand community” and highlighted its relevance in developing followership on Instagram, as this community collectively brings together people with a shared interest in the brand which leads to  “a subculture around the brand with its own values, myths, hierarchy, rituals and vocabulary”. This community fosters shared experiences with the actual product. The article also dived into the relationships between brands and “famous Instagrammers” who help them advertise their products. Sellers must do research on who is relevant to their product and which influencer can reach a proper, target audience. In this way, a relationship is built between the influencer who promotes the product and either receives money or just the product, called eWOM, or online word of mouth in which the business is simply tagged in a post. 

The article also emphasized how the businesses they interviewed interact with people on social media even if the Instagrammer is not a costume: “Sometimes you will have individuals randomly commenting on your photos even though he or she is not your customers. But as a brand, since The Baking Bachelor has positioned himself as being approachable and friendly, he loves to casually reply and make friends with those who commented. This is another strategy building relationships to attract customers to become loyal to your brand.” (21) This type of communication between the brand builder and the possible customer can work to create an image for the brand and influence consumerism through web relationships. 

Coll, Patricia and Josep Lluis Mico. “Influencer Marketing in the Growth Hacking strategy of digital brands.” Observatorio Journal, vol. 13, no. 2, 2019, pp. 87-105. OberCom, http://obs.obercom.pt/index.php/obs/article/view/1409

The article looks specifically at how people outside of the company create content and buzz around a product. Users can become brand ambassadors, influencers can tout favorite brands, followers can write comments and reviews. These “digital natives” who grew up in a digitally interconnected world are developing business and communication skills on these platforms. Within businesses, especially startups, “growth hackers” is a new term whose goal is to be creative with media so as to not spend capital on traditional marketing campaigns. 

Influencer marketing also includes “micro-influencers” who are now considered apart of communications strategies. 

“In this sense, we can affirm that actions with influencers are part of the communications strategies of the brands under study, which, in turn, have 360o vision and are developed according to the four phases of the Marstonian strategic planning process (Marston, 1963): reach, act, convert and engage”. Influencers become a part of these processes of marketing, even those micro-influencers who promote brands solely because of their like of the brand. 

Hudders, Liselot, et al. “Digital Advertising and Consumer Empowerment.” Cyberpsychology, vol. 13, no. 2, June 2019, pp. 1–7.  EBSCOhost, http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.emory.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=937dd0c1-1b7e-4fda-9fd8-ce13a1b46023%40sessionmgr4006&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=136723883&db=a9h

Consumer empowerment is at its core the ability of digital advertising to “y-pass consumer resistance and skepticism by giving the consumer an active role in the advertising process”. Consumers are involved in the process of developing and building a brand through their own feelings of empowerment to comment and share on companies. The distance between brands and consumers is decreased with participatory modes of comments and sharing. The distance between advertising and purchasing is also decreased as productive modes of link sharing has been included in Instagram. 

The article also touched on concerns about using personal data to target audiences with personalized ads. Although this isn’t a main concern of my research paper, I definitely hope to include that with businesses and influencers, brands have become invasive with personalized ads that invade the social media space with advertisements on scrolling and story feeds. Because my research paper is more about the positive, green businesses that are utilizing the Instagram platform for content.

Nesamoney, Diaz. Personalized Digital Advertising; How Data and Technology Are Transforming How We Market. New Jersey, Pearson Education, 2015. 

Diaz defines native advertising, personalized advertising, and content marketing. These terms will be useful in understanding the context of my research, as I will be looking at the way businesses market to consumers on Instagram. Instagram utilizes all three modes of advertising, and I hope to dive further into this relevancy in my research paper. Essentially, native advertising takes the form of the site and borrows its style; personalized advertising utilizes personalized data and optimizations; content marketing drives engagement between consumer and brand. She also notes the importance of engagement of a consumer with personalized ads and content marketing. 

Diaz notes how traditional mechanisms of purchasing have changed with the advent of social media and its advancing eCommerce technology. The ability for consumers to purchase in real-time is a game-changer in the consumer economy and also changes the linear approach that marketing once took with ad television.  It is a “continuous dialogue and communication between brands and their customers”, rather than the traditional flow: “Create Idea/Concept → Plan Media → Develop Creative Assets → Produce Ad → Launch Campaign → Measure → Optimize”. 

Del Rowe, Sam. “Disappearing Content is Marketing Magic: Platforms like Instagram Stories and Snapchat allow marketers to reach new audiences.” CRM Magazine, vol. 22, no. 2, Mar. 2018, pp. 34-37. EBSCOhost, http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.emory.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=c53a86f7-b969-46c2-807c-613b94e4d7ad%40sdc-v-sessmgr03&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=128230074

I was happy to find this article as I feel it will help me explore the marketing tools of Instagram and the relevance to businesses. Disappearing content, such as Instagram stories, allows for exclusivity and immediacy for consumers. These real-time posts allow for new methods of brand community building through visual elements, brand excitement, or interactive questions and polls. The article also mentioned the value of speaking to their audiences by sharing Instagram stories that give inside access to a company’s inner workings which bridge the gap between labor and consumers. Instagram also allows for in-depth metrics that allow for businesses to see their influence.  Essentially, these ephemeral artistic ads or videos “humanize the brand” and bring a consumer into the company. It also allows marketers to reach easily Millenials who feed off of quick entertainment and are already swiping through Instagram stories casually and regularly.