Social media seems to be everywhere these days with over a billion people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and other social media platforms. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the power of social media in our society.
For the issue of climate change to be front and center in the lives of everyday Americans and people around the world, we can leverage the benefits of social media in connecting like-minded people and creating a larger awareness of the climate change crisis. Anyone even mildly interested in social media can learn how to better use it as a tool to spread the word about climate change. Here are some ways social media can increase awareness of climate change and maybe even spur people to become involved in climate change activism at some level:
- Change how people view climate change by posting images, facts, statistics and hyperlinks to relevant articles and by featuring in your posts people who are taking positive steps to address it.
- Create engagement with friends/followers and shares/likes – people want to be engaged and feel connected. That’s why social media is so popular.
- Build a support network around this issue – create a web of people to spread the word to their friends and followers and follow this issue that they care about, thus building bigger networks of change-makers.
- Extend the reach of your posts to people beyond your usual circle by including relevant hashtags and tags.
- Possibility of post going viral – viral posts have upwards of thousands or even millions of views, shares, and likes. With that kind of visibility and exposure, more people will start to contemplate your climate change message who might not otherwise even be aware of climate change.
Important features to make your post more effective
Humans are visual beings and are more likely to pay attention to posts with images or videos (also see memes, below).
Hyperlinks to webpages are important to include if referencing a recent study, blog post or news story, for example.
A hashtag is an easy way for people to categorize, find and join conversations on a particular topic. Hashtags can give your post more visibility, especially if you use hashtags that are popular or are “trending”. A hashtag by definition starts with the # sign and must contain no spaces. They can be made up on the fly. Established hashtags related to climate change activism include the following:
#ActOnClimate #DivestNow #BanFracking #PlantBased
By using a tag, you can also increase a post’s visibility. “Tagging” individuals or organizations is done by using their social media “handle” (essentially their username for the social media platform) in your post preceded by the @ sign. It works a little differently on different social media platforms. To tag SanDiego350 or the local organization Climate Action Campaign or SANDAG on Twitter, include @SanDiego350 or @sdclimateaction or @SANDAG respectively in your post.
You can usually get an organization’s Twitter handle by going to their website and clicking on their Twitter link from there. Tag your friends, elected officials or media outlets to get their attention for your post (they’ll see the post in their feed and get a notification).
Facts, quotes, and statistics/numbers can be included in social media posts by using a meme. A meme is an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the Internet. Memes are hugely popular and sometimes spread like wildfire on social media. You may remember the Ice Bucket Challenge video meme from 2014. However many memes are simply images with a quote superimposed on them.
Memes can be created quite easily using online editor apps such as Canva, Picmonkey and Pixlr. To create a meme even more quickly while on the go, you can download the Wordswag or Typorama applications on your phone. Many times these online editors and apps provide free backgrounds and pictures on which to place your quote/words. You can also use your pictures from your camera or find free domain pictures from websites such as Picjumbo, Pixabay, Freefoto and Wikipedia Commons.
A trending topic is a popular hashtag (i.e. keyword or phrase) that people are using to search the social media engine. Conversely, if enough people are searching for the same thing, then the hashtag becomes “trending.” Trending topics are the hot topics in society that are in the forefront of social media search engines, generating buzz such as #EarthToParis and #ClimateRedLine from December’s international conference on climate change in Paris. Climate change is a hot topic (no pun intended:)) and for raising awareness, wouldn’t it be great if we could have it “trending”!
Social Media In Use
Climate activist Fenton Lutunatabua from Fiji uses social media to great effect. In 2014, in Newcastle, Australia, he tweeted, Instagrammed, Flickr’ed, and blogged the protest by Pacific Climate Warriors who were in wooden canoes, blocking a giant freighter that was trying to leave the biggest coal port in the world. With his real-time posts, Fenton got the unfiltered voices of the Pacific Climate Warriors rocketed to the internet and grabbed headlines around the world. See Fighting climate change with Snapchat? Meet the Pacific Islander trying it out. Snapchat enables you to easily post mini videos of yourself talking or of a scene unfolding. Lutunatabua has also documented fierce storm weather related to climate change as well as the threat of rising sea levels on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter. Lutunatabua has created quite a following in raising the awareness for climate change, on his personal social media pages and for 350 Pacific.
Social Media in Your Hands
Being active on social media need take only a few minutes any time you have the opportunity. Even if you are just sharing what SanDiego350 is posting on your social media news feed, that’s very helpful. If everyone in SD350 who’s on social media were to post, share and like each other’s climate change posts, then our numbers and influence would grow, impacting our overall social media presence for climate change. It is particularly powerful to create original posts and/or memes about the events you take part in. For example, posting photos of yourself during a climate change action event or livestreaming an event on facebook are great ways to publicize climate change activism.
You might even have a post go “viral” which is when upwards of thousands or millions of people like or share the same post! A post may go viral if other people find it interesting, funny, entertaining or unique in some way. Usually it is a meme, picture, or video that goes viral along with interesting stories/blog posts. It’s impossible of course to determine in advance which posts will go viral (or else every post would be viral!). A viral post would also be sometimes be found under “trending” topics.
In short, there are many ways to grow the climate change movement by taking advantage of social media. If you haven’t already, start by liking/following some of SanDiego350’s social media sites – listed below. Also try actively engaging through likes, shares and comments. By increasing our numbers and presence on the Internet, we can effect real change, bringing the climate change movement to the forefront of people’s lives. Finally, viral posts and trending posts are considered the “jackpots” of the social media sphere. Let’s aim to hit them!