Social Media and behavioral change – Saving time, money, and cutting the bullS***
In this post, you’ll get hands-on examples of how to use social media for quick and dirty behavioral change campaigns. One of them took me 10 minutes to make and saved my workplace 2-4 weeks of work, and thousands of dollars.
In my day job, I convert recycling advice and environmental information into information that makes sense, and more importantly, that you can act on.
If I make you wiser, that’s good, but I’m still only halfway there. For me to succeed, I need to give you the information you need, and the tools to act on it, while giving you that little push you need to change your actions.
An important thing to note here is, I don’t make people do things they don’t want to do. Most people want to be more environmentally friendly, they just need the means to do it. That’s where I come in.
In the olden days of communication, you would just give your recipient a lot of information, but as I’m sure we all know, information isn’t enough.
We all know smoking is bad, and exercise and a healthy diet is good, but somehow we’re not all riped non-smokers.
I won’t get into why behavioral change is more important than information. You can read my posts about it here and find additional resources here. Just remember that your words matter when you’re doing SoMe.
So how can social media, or SoMe as the kids call it, initiate a changed behavior?
Social media, when done right, can enforce a sense of purpose, of belonging, and an urgent need to act. These are all emotions strongly tied up to behavioral change.
But instead of giving you a lot of information about how to do it, I’ll show you.
The following are two examples of quick and dirty facebook updates I did, and an explanation as to why they worked.
1) The pink April Fools
This spring, we were lucky enough to get our hands on this beautiful pink waste bin. Just look how happy I am. It’s basically a pink version of the same gray bins we are distributing to the entire municipality.
I wanted to make a big event with it on April 1st, but the team, myself included, was swamped with work. Furthermore, April 1st was on a Saturday this year, making it even more difficult to pull of a happening.
Enter the magic of the internet!
I did some horrible photoshopping, got creative with the text and voila! This is the Facebook post I made:
‘YOUR NEW BIN IS PINK!
Last Thursday, the municipality approved the new design plan for the waste department.
After a short budget negotiation, it was decided that the entire municipality will get a trash bin in hot pink.
The new bins will put recycling on the agenda and put this municipality on the map as a first-mover when it comes to environmental action.
If you’ve already received a grey bin, it will be swapped with a pink bin during the summer of 2017.
You can read more about the new design guide and the color pink here:
So yes, I am obviously not a creative genius. I spent 30 min making this post and then posted it on Facebook. The link takes you to a page of the top 3 questions about the new recycling scheme — a page we had difficulties directing traffic to.
I boosted the Facebook post with the equivalent of 22 US dollars.
The results? It had a reach of more than 14,000 people, got 400 reactions, 60 comments, 24 shares, and 1328 clicks on the link. This also made it our most visited page, as we were averaging around 500 clicks per week on ‘hot topics’, and 10 clicks per week on ‘bottomfeeder’ pages. This is by far the most clicks we’ve had on a site regarding the new recycling scheme. In a municipality of 90,000 people, getting this response to waste is pretty darn good.
Why it worked
This was an openly bad joke. It was not trying to be anything special. It was not trying to educate. It tabbed into a tradition, loved and hated by the Danish public – the horribly obvious April fools pranks.
It took a boring trashcan, and gave it some pesaz!
In other words, the message I am sending is, don’t worry, you won’t get a big pink waste bin. You will still get a waste bin, but in a less intrusive color – and no, we’re not gonna lecture you.
What’s the takeaway?
Tab into what already exists. Christmas, traditions, old jokes. I once accidentally planned a recycling event on Valentine’s day! So, when I promoted it, I added a bunch of hearts and romance, and made the headline: WE LOVE TRASH! It was a close save, but it worked.
Maybe April fools isn’t your thing. That’s cool. Here is another example of SoMe working its magic.
2) Cardboard or carton? The money saver
I work with waste management and getting people to recycle more. That also means explaining the rules of recycling.
In our recycling scheme, you can put your carton with your paper, but the cardboard has to be recycled in a separate bin.
This is confusing and we’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to tell the difference between carton and cardboard. The long answer has to do with the wood fibers in the two materials, but it tends to make the listener even more confused.
Instead of a wall of text, I tore off some cardboard from the office supply room and stole the carton roll inside a toilet paper roll. I grabbed my phone and went to work. 10 minutes later, with the aid of an Instagram filter and a layout app, I had this picture.
I shared it with a text explaining the difference in this way:
‘Are you down with carton?
We’ve received some questions about the new recycling scheme. One of them is, what’s the difference between cardboard and carton?
Well, cardboard and carton are tricky areas, but this is our rule of thumb:
Cardboard usually comes in big quantities, like furniture packaging. When you tear it, you can see a middle layer inside the cardboard, which is wavy.
Carton, on the other hand, is “just” thick paper. When you tear it, it still looks like thick paper.
From may 1st, carton can go in your paper bin. Cardboard should be taken to the recycling station.
Share this information with your neighbors 🙂
Thank you for recycling!’
The results blew me away!
I didn’t even boost this update, meaning I spend no money on it, but it got 26 shares, 116 reactions, 857 clicks, and had a range of 6774 people. Again, in a municipality of 90,000, that’s a big deal considering the photo is basically a picture of trash. Even the mayor shared it!
So for 10 minutes of work, and no money at all, I did what a communication campaign would have done in weeks or months of planning, and thousands of dollars worth of graphics, printing, and distribution. Let’s just recap:
I saved my workplace weeks of work, and thousands of dollars, in 10 minutes
This is the power of social media
Why it worked
It visually explained the difference between the two materials, making it easy for the citizen to test his or her waste. It eliminated a lot of energy and frustration that would have been spent contemplating the difference.
It took away the am-I-doing-it-right doubt that many people face when sorting their waste. It gave them a tool for solving this issue in years to come and thanked them for making an effort, creating a desire to continue recycling.
What’s the takeaway?
If you’re a good communicator, and you know the underlying motives and frustrations of your audience, you can work around the old ways of designing behavioral change campaigns.
If you can deliver your message in a to-the-point fashion, you can get away with taking photos of your waste, and just adding an Instagram filter.
Social media is an easy, cheap, and fast way of narrowing the gap between you and your target audience. It’s a platform where you can get away with fast updates, camera phones, and cheap editing apps.
If, on the other hand, you want to make a super high-end folder, your audience will not tolerate sloppy graphics, faulty grammar, or bad jokes. But it works for Social Media.
SoMe is a place to meet your equal
This is especially important if you work in government. You are usually the authority, telling the citizen what to do and how to comply with the rules. This automatically creates a gap between you and a (skewed?) power balance.
On social media, it’s ok to make bad jokes, with horribly photoshopped pictures. If you are fun and can look your audience in the eyes, that’s what matters.
Don’t be afraid to be human, and don’t be afraid of snarky comments on Facebook. It’s a part of how the platform works, and the rest of your audience knows that the trolls are just trolling.
So go get your share on, and make the difference you need to make 😉
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