Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more important than ever to your environmental campaign.
A 2014 report by public relations and marketing firm Cone Communications found that when individuals educate themselves about social or environmental issues through social media, they are more likely to take action. According to the 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study, nearly two-thirds of Americans say that after “liking” or “following” a nonprofit or corporate social responsibility program online, they are more inclined to support the cause by volunteering, donating and sharing information.
Here are the top three lessons from this report that local governments, haulers and other organizations carrying out environmental campaigns need to know:
1. Choose your social media outlet based on your target audience
Facebook is far and away Americans’ preferred social media platform, Cone Communications found, so you shouldn’t plan a digital campaign without it. But beyond Facebook, different segments of the population prefer their own digital channels.
Looking to launch a campaign that targets men? Don’t bother with Pinterest, as women are more likely to use this visual bookmarking tool than men (27 percent vs. 9 percent).
If you’re planning to create an anti-littering initiative aimed at Millennials, for example, go ahead and make use of Tumblr. Millennials are twice as likely as the average American to use Tumblr (14 percent vs. 7 percent).
If you’re aiming to reach Baby Boomers—perhaps to publicize a syringe or medication collection program—your best bet is to stick to Facebook. More than half of Boomers say they use Facebook to engage around social or political issues, but their participation on other platforms is minimal.
2. Inspire real action
The study also revealed a gap between intent and action—what people say they do and what they actually do. For example, while 70 percent of survey respondents said they are likely to learn online about changes they can make in their everyday lives to reduce their environmental impact, only 25 percent reported doing so in the last year.
Rather than view this discrepancy as an indictment of social media activism (derogatorily referred to as slacktivism), Cone Communications calls it a “prime opportunity” for organizations to motivate individuals to take meaningful action.
So don’t just offer passive online actions such as “liking” or “sharing” content to your current and prospective followers. Instead, give your followers action-oriented activities they can do to make an impact—perhaps giving you feedback on your hazardous waste collection program or signing a commitment to change their behavior (pledging to compost or recycle batteries, for instance).
3. Make the message meaningful and urgent
Americans are bombarded by social and environmental causes on social media, so how can you make your campaign stand out?
According to Cone Communications’ study, survey respondents are more likely to be motivated to take action on a cause they learned about online if they believe their participation will make an impact (79 percent), there is an urgent need for immediate support (79 percent), it is easy to participate (77 percent) and the issue is personally relevant (74 percent).
So, offer your followers actions they can take that will make a real difference (example: sign up for the litter pickup event), just like we discussed in the last tip. And be sure to tell them how the action will benefit their community and the environment. Rather than leading with a guilty prod, such as “Litter and pollution is destroying our community,” boast about how much litter the cleanup event collected last year and how it protected the local environment.