How can environmental activists use social media? Part 1

A bird

Twitter, first generation. 

Environmental activists and NGOs spend a considerable amount of time Facebook posting and Tweeting. But the best use of social networks is about what you want to achieve. ALESSIO PERRONE spoke to some experts in the field and gives some tips about how to use platforms successfully to promote social change

Essayist Michel de Montaigne used to say: 'No wind favours him who has no destined port'. It still holds true for social media today.

Social networks have become vectors of change, beyond what we used to fathom. A few years ago, we derided the lazy, trivial gestures we called them hashtag activism.
Today, social networks are being used to swing elections, spread awareness and crowdfund exciting projects - and not-so-exciting ones.

Digital campaigners

But their potential as motors of social progress is still untapped. Most progressive NGOs and campaigners keep a social media presence, but many have no clear idea of how to make the most of it.

According to the 2018 Global NGO Online Technology Report, 93 percent of NGOs were on Facebook, 77 percent on Twitter and 50 percent on Instagram. But only 32 percent had a written social media strategy.

Let’s fill that gap: The Ecologist interviewed people who work as digital campaigners to get some tips on how to use social media to promote social change. Here’s what they said.

1. Think, think, think

“There are many dangerous myths around social media: many think that if they’ve got a Twitter handle, their organization will have instant success,” a digital campaigning specialist who asked to remain anonymous said. “But that’s not how it works. Good use of social media is about what you want to achieve.”

Think of social media as tool to an end: before you do anything, stop for a moment and think about your goal. 

Four centuries ago, essayist Michel de Montaigne used to say: “No wind favours him who has no destined port". It still holds true for social media today: having no clear objective will result in unfocussed work and untargeted posts – ultimately, a waste of time.

Broader campaign

So, set tangible goals. List them, as there may be more than one – eg reaching new audiences, targeting a politician to stop a dam, fundraising, etc. If you have many, prioritise them.

Make them concrete, something you can measure. Don’t say ‘Reach new audiences’, say ‘Increase my Facebook followers by 10 percent’. Don’t say ‘Target a politician to stop a dam’, say ‘Get 10,000 user comments on his/her Facebook page to change his mind on the dam’.

Don’t skip this step – it’s vital. Your social media goals aren’t just important for the role they play in your broader campaign; they also serve as a compass that tells you what is working for you and what isn’t. (See tip number 4.) And be realistic – an unachievable goal is as bad a compass as having no goals at all.

Next up - tomorrow - Who is your audience?

This Author

Alessio Perrone is a freelance journalist and digital native.

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