Social media can be a huge time sink if not used strategically. There are so many interesting articles, videos and tweets happening on the internet. An hour can pass in an instant before realizing you forgot what you were looking for. But it’s facile to dismiss social media as a waste of time. You just need to know how to harness it for your goals.
1. Clarify in Your Mind What You Want People to Do
Do you want people to waste less food at home? Explain that consumers end up throwing out 25% of the groceries they buy. Give them five simple tips for reducing food waste at home. Share soup, sauce and smoothie recipes from celebrity chefs that use up those produce items in their fridge that usually go to waste.
Do want people to stop flushing their expired prescription drugs? Explain how these drugs flow right through waste water treatment plants out into waterways untreated. Explain the effects on marine life. Then let them know they can take their expired medicines to the local pharmacy for disposal.
2. Find the Influencers
In any social group, whether on line or in person, there are gatekeepers for ideas. These are the people the mainstreamers in a group look to for new ideas and permission to try something new. If you can convince these gatekeepers that your idea is worth embracing, their influence on others in their group can help tip the idea into the mainstream.
The following graphic, from Alan AtKisson’s book The Isis Agreement: How Sustainability Can Improve Organizational Performance and Transform the World, shows the roles people play in an organization or social group. The individual parts form a greater whole that has a unifying purpose.
“Laggards” will come along eventually, after most other people have already adopted the new behavior. Don’t spent time worrying about the “reactionaries” and “curmudgeons.” You can’t please everyone and they will sap your enthusiasm for the project if you engage in argument with them.
3. Create “sticky” content
The lifeblood of social media is interesting and relevant content. Create blog posts, infographics and video content to share that express a clear message about the problem and what you want people to do. The more innovative, positive and inclusive the solution the better.
Many people want to know what they can do to help the environment. Of the hundreds of different steps they could take, given their limited time, what would make a difference? Make a compelling case about why your solution will indeed make a difference.
4. Find the People We Call Gatekeepers, Influencers and Transformers
These wonderful folks are well connected, in person and online. They have many friends and followers on social networks. They may be the main point of contact for in-person social groups. They write a blog. They “like” other people’s content. If you want to engage them, “like” their content and make positive, supportive comments on their content. Promote their content and share your content with them. Start a dialogue. If your content seems relevant to them, they will share it among their social networks.
Try different content formats, styles and approaches. Track which ones were the most popular. Build on your successes.
One very tangible and useful purpose of government is to protect the environment. A system of regulations and enforcement is the best course of action to clean up our land, water and air. More and more, environmental work at the government level is about voluntary programs and partnerships. To be successful spreading innovations with limited budgets, these programs need to do more with less. Social media is a powerful beast that large corporations have used to market products and services. Now let’s leverage it to help build a sustainable future.