We are planting seeds, fertilising ideas, growing a network. We are part of a much wider ecosystem that includes natural scientists, progressive publications and campaigning charities.
The audience for The Ecologist is blooming. We now have 200,000 readers every month, which is almost double the number from the previous year. It's still down some from our hey day but it's the right direction of travel.
But there is so much to be done, we want to do so much better. To achieve this, we want to build a community of readers and advocates who not only read our articles - regularly or through online searches - but also share them with friends, colleagues and fellow activists.
To further enhance these efforts we have put together a concise guide to the best social media tools currently available for sharing content, and getting the message out there. This guide is written for our authors, but we would love our readers to engage with these suggestions as well.
1. Send it out
If you’ve written the article, send it to the people you have interviewed after it’s published. I never understood why, but often as journalists we are afraid of doing this – afraid of judgment, I assume.
But if you haven’t misquoted, or written terrible things about the people you interviewed, then there’s no need to be afraid; make the jump. They’ll love it. Their name and views in your article gives them exposure and prestige, and they’ll push it even further than you’d end up doing.(If you have misquoted them or written biased things about them, we need to talk.)
Authors - and also readers - should even consider developing their own newsletter, using MailChimp, Constant Contact or other free online platform. Even if you are sending just a few emails to a dozen people, this makes it quicker and more impactful. People can then become part of your ecosystem by signing up.
Tell people about your article, both in real life and online. If you found a story interesting, chances are that somebody else will too, especially if this is a person who thinks like you.
Each social media platform is different and what draws people to read an article will depend on many things – Instagram works very differently than, say, LinkedIn, or Reddit. So you should change how you post the article across different platforms, spending that extra minute to tailor your post description to the platform you’re using, or you could add a picture, a video, etc.
That said, don’t put your eggs in one basket – you’ll reach different people on different social media, so why not experiment with environmental news on Instagram and LinkedIn?
If you don’t know a platform very well and want to get to know what works well on it and how you should post, invest some time on it; interact with other users etc.
But as a general rule of thumb, inject some of your personality in your posts. Say why you liked the article, or why you think it’s crucial that other people read it.
On Facebook, most of us will have friends we grew up with who have since switched to the dark side, or people who don’t care about climate change. Sharing an article on your own wall will target those people too, and they won’t read it.
Try finding people who think the issue is critical instead. There are thousands of active Facebook Groups, and there almost certainly is one for the article you’d like people to read. Start with
- Climate Change: Science, Mitigation & Adaptation;
- Global Environmental Awareness Network;
- Animal Rights and the Environment;
- The Ecology of Systems Thinking
Yes, Reddit. The platform intermittently sends articles viral – or leaves them languishing in internet obscurity; but it’s always worth a try.
Like Facebook, Reddit teems with groups (subreddits) of people who share interests. Some say if someone is interested in something, then there’s a subreddit about it – there are thousands of them, including… a subreddit to find subreddits. So chances are that there will be one for you here, too.
Start with r/Environment, (the biggest environmental discussion group I know of) and explore from there!
Reddit is quite different from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, so read the rules (for example, you can get banned for spamming and self-promotion) and spend some time on it before you use it. This will also make you familiar with what sends a post trending.
Your article will be there, and we’re sure you’ll find more interesting reads on the environment – and so will they. Forward the newsletter to contacts, and encourage them to sign up as well.
Don’t use the internet just as a dumping site. Social media is a place to network, talk to people, interact – just like the real world. Nobody will casually read your posts if all you do is tweet links and sign out.
Try and create relationships with other readers, and then move from there. You could tag people you interviewed for the article when you tweet it. It might encourage them to retweet, or to post it on their social media accounts themselves.
Another way to cheat is to follow a few people who are interested in the topic after you tweet about it. They might see your work and follow back.
But the key is to keep getting to know people and learn. Make sure you monitor trends and hashtags related to your interests, and opportunities will jump out to you.
I’ll give you one, and only one, example. Have you noticed Twitter accounts using #FBPE? It means ‘Follow Back, Pro EU’, and is used by Remain voters to network and join forces on Twitter. Maybe something similar will arise for environmentalists one day!
Alessio Perrone is a freelance journalist and digital native. Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.