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Green social media

Why the green sector needs to get better at Social Media and web — part one

Environmental professionals, especially in the public sector, need to get better at utilizing social media as part of their work. The following post explains why, and gives you a few ready-to-use pointers to take you that extra mile.

The green field is missing out and falling behind

I keep coming back to this subject, simply because it’s important.

As someone who lives on the internet, it pains me to time and time again see amazing products and organizations miss their audience because they don’t know how to navigate social media and behavioral change strategies.

It’s the reason I switched from working as an environmental planner to working as a copywriter. There are so many passionate professionals out there who get up every day and work themselves to the bones to make the world a better place.

But I saw them struggling with reaching their goals and falling behind in terms of communication. Often the “script” of a communication campaign would follow the same script as the ones I remember from my childhood.

Use less energy, save water and do it for future generations.

These campaigns are heavy on facts and appeal to the better nature in. They ask us to make better choices, and basically be better humans. The problem is, they don’t work.

I came across these campaigns all the time and was frustrated out of my skull. Why? Because I knew that only a few tips and tricks could help them make an enormous difference.

I wanted to give professionals in the green industry the tools they needed to make those changes happen. After a few years of frustration, I switched carrier path. I now work full-time writing copy for websites, newsletters, and social media. I also teach these techniques to my clients, so they don’t have to depend on me.

Social media is no longer an online identity – it is part of your identity.

If you’re not online, you don’t exist.

 

The green industry is no different.

 

You don’t have to beat your green competitors!

The beauty of the environmental sector is, you don’t with other green organizations or products. If done right, information campaigns promoting behavioral change, do not compete with other behavioral change campaigns. You are not a soft drink, trying to outmaneuver other soft drinks.

We need all hands on deck to make the world a more sustainable place. Luckily, the communication strategies that work for pro-environmental behavior are so good you don’t have to fight other companies in a green arena. Your success does not mean another green organization has to fail.

But you still need to work hard and stay visible, so you don’t lose ground to non-sustainable solutions.

Bringing the green sector into the age of the internet — and social media

 

Being a kid in the 80’s and 90’s I remember the marketing slogan: Sex sells.

Selling climate change prevention and mitigation as sexy is hard, and a rather inept thing to do. You would never promote 3rd world aid as sexy, it’s insensitive and very inappropriate. Good news! Sex isn’t the only sales tool anymore.

For the last decade describing an ad as sexy has referred less to the physical cleavages and abs of the 80’s and 90’s and more to a sense of ‘Shiny’.

So does the environmental sector need to get shiny?

Yes and no. The world is a very different place than it was just ten years ago. In the world of marketing, this manifests itself in the way that authenticity sells more than sparkles.

 

I repeat: Authenticity sells

 

WOOP WOOP! This is great news for the environmental sector as it is if full of passionate and inspiring, authentic individuals. The bad news is these individuals usually don’t feel comfortable navigating the social media jungle. Often, they even to downplay their media presence on purpose.

 

The WHY, the passion, and the story

Authenticity is scary and daunting, and if you —like me— remember a time before the internet you probably don’t have an urge to create a youtube channel, or write about your innermost secret online.

But this is what vast parts of the internet is now. Liza Koshy, an internet celebrity with over 40 million online followers, announced her breakup with fellow youtube celebrity David Dobrik via a youtube video. I dare you to watch and not get something in your eye.

You might be thinking, yeah well, all of these people are going to regret plastering the internet like this. But this is the equivalent of my older generations telling my peers and me, that we would regret spending so much time playing video games. We didn’t. In fact, we all have great memories of those games and it shaped who we became as individuals, and as a culture. To spell it out:

 

Being vulnerable and authentic online isn’t something we’re going to regret. It’s the new normal.

 

Is scary, it’s new, and it feels like it goes against everything you know. But you need to show more of yourself and your values if you want to create trust.

Your audience what to know ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing. Why are you selling biodegradable cutlery, why are you working to prevent deforestation, and in my case why are you writing about behavioral change online instead of having a normal 9-5? That also why the ‘About’ page on your website is crucial to your business.

 

So does this mean that you should get rid of your filter and just show the gritty you? No. Youtube videos are edited, Instagram pictures are selected from a batch of 10 different shots and have filters.

And the mother of social media, Facebook, is always showing you the brightest moments of the day — Not the moment where you realize you’ve had something green stuck in your teeth for the entire team meeting.

 

Social Media is more like a first date. It’s an honest representation of you, but you make an effort to look nice. You pick out a nice outfit, you groom yourself, and you show an interest in the other person. It’s still you, but it’s a very presentable side of you.

If you, on the other hand, show up to a first date in your Sunday jammies you’re placing yourself in the back of the field.

It’s the same thing with social media. You show off your best features while remaining honest. Hopefully, this (virtual) date, will lead to a lasting connection between you, and your audience.

But I’m too busy making the world better – I don’t have time for updates

This is the pitfall for most people in the green sector. They work tirelessly to improve the state of the world. Taking time to post about in on Facebook, or take a picture for Instagram, seems like time wasted.

I get it, I’m the same.

You would rather be doing your job than tweeting about your job.

But the world has changed a lot, and social media is a crucial element for success. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling eco-friendly swimwear or building drought protection in Africa, get online!

One solution is to hire someone to do it for you. If this is not an option for you right now, keep reading to get hands-on advice. Don’t worry, I’m right here with you, and we’ll take it slow.

Going back to the dating analogy, you might feel nervous about putting yourself out there. You want everything to be perfect before you start. Forget about it.

Like I said authenticity sells. There is no such thing as the perfect social media campaign or perfect strategy. But there are a few rules of thumbs.

One of them is simply knowing how your target audience act on the internet, and what the trends are.

 

Memes, emojis, and fads – know your audience

The first time I used Snap(chat) as a verb, I got mad street cred from my stepdaughter while her dad stared blankly from the other side of the table and asked: ‘what’?

If you have kids, you’ll know that they are on top of fashion and trends in a way that’s hard for you to comprehend. If you are trying to change the behavior of teenagers, you need a campaign that targets — and a lot of patience.

 

If this picture makes no sense to you, you really need to read the rest of this post.

 

But even if you are targeting adults, you need to be aware of the unique language that makes up the internet.

The web is built on jokes and references that people know and cherish. Some are obvious, and some are not. Having success on social media requires you to understand what memes, and emojis your audience likes. Just like you need to know how your audience acts on the internet.

How the internet works — Lessons from Tesla

Regardless of what you think of Tesla, they know how the internet works.
In 2014, which is almost generations ago in internet time, Tesla released all their patents in the hope of pushing the global EV production further.

It was, as the CEO Elon Musk put it, in the spirit of the open source movement, which was sweeping the internet at the time. But more importantly, the news took the internet with storm when Tesla paired it with the words:

All Our Patent Are Belong To You

If you were not a citizen of the internet at the time, this looked like an awkward spelling error. Embarrassing, right?  Nope. It was, in fact, a stroke of genius.

It references the meme All Your Base Are Belong to Us, which is a classical internet meme.

By choosing this headline, anyone who was in on the joke was likely to share the news, and help give it a viral life on the web, instead of “just” a news story about a car manufacturer who for some reason was giving away all their secrets.

In fact, Musk has a long history of working the internet to mainstream knowledge about new technologies, like appearing on the Wait but why blog, and latest introducing flamethrowers and cyborg dragons.

 

Why it worked — Building trust

Using memes and internet slang that your audience uses, is equivalent to showing them, that you speak the same language as them – You are on their team. It feeds into a culture and therefore a sense of belonging. It very simply builds trust and rapport.

I’ve heard green professionals protest to this approach with the question: But isn’t that manipulation?

You can answer that better than me: Are you manipulating people when you are having a conversation with them, in their native language?

Striped of body language and why to use emojis — Get social

Speaking in a mutual language shows the person you’re talking to, that you understand them, and share their values. The same rule applies on the web.

It’s something most of us do per default when meeting new people. We tend to find subjects we have in common, and even start to copy each others body language. This is a natural part of human communications. The reason it feels weird on social media is because it’s happening on a new platform.

The internet still feels like something different from “normal” human behavior. But, understand that the line between “normal human behavior” and internet behavior, are getting blurrier by the day.

Showing someone that you are part of their culture is called mirroring. Well known in social psychology, mirroring is the act of copying each others body language, either consciously or subconsciously.

If you want to see this effect in full action, find a couple who is on their first date. Watch how they tend to sip their water at the same time, straighten their back in the same way, and so on.

On the internet, you don’t have the luxury of using body language to communicate. This is part of the reason why emojis and memes should be a natural part of your online presence.

 

There are many numbers floating around referring to how much of our communication is verbal, and how much is non-verbal.  One of them is the 55-38-7 rule, also known as Albert Mehrabian’s rule. This is the belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual spoken or written words. This rule has been much debated and to a high degree debunked, because of the uncertainty about the percentile.

To put it in another way, we know body language and tone of voice are dominant in communication, we just don’t know how much.

 

A world without Verbal communication

Verbal and Non-verbal communication complement each other and brings the message home faster. We can all relate to being a kid and hearing our mother say ‘come here.’

Happy mom — something green

You know from the tone in her voice and the look in her eyes if you’re about to get a snuggle or a talking to.

But imagine if you only had the words to work with. You would have to go to your mom and ask follow-up questions to figure out what she wanted.

Without emojis and other communications tools (like brakes, quotation marks, exclamation marks, cursive and so on), the internet is an eternal struggle for our brain to figure out what the person on the other end is saying, and how their feeling.

 

Ever had an e-mail from a coworker where you’re not sure if they approve of your work, or hate it? If you’re like me, you’ll spend a fair amount of time thinking about what they mean, and how to reply. If it had been a face-to-face conversation, instead of e-mail, you would know for sure.

Unfortunately, the busier we are, the more inclined we are to leave out the little ‘good job’ or happy emoji at the end of the e-mail, because we default to writing the way we speak, not remembering that we also speak with our body’s.

Wow, that was a lot of information. Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but we’re still not done.

The internet is possibly the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind. Without going further into the negative sides like election manipulation, the spreading of fake news, and polarisation, the internet can be a tool for positive change.

 

In the next post, I break down how you can use the force of the web, to change the world.

Want more advice on pro-environmental behavior? Add me on LinkedIn or hit the subscribe button below, to get your dose.

Your words matter – how big organizations accidentally hinder sustainable change

The headlines of your articles are not just for snazzy clickbait. If done wrong they might work against you – and against the environment. Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing headlines.

 

 

Yesterday while scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I came across the following article from the World Economic Forum.

Headlines for sustainable content Asian plastic

 

90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers

This is a really interesting subject and I wanted to know more, however, what really got me was the words the WEF decided should go along with it:

’Eight of them are in Asia, two in Africa’

‘Urg’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s a bad choice of words for this piece’.

The World Economic Forum, an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is committed to improving the state of the world. This fact makes the above even more problematic.

Though in line with the article and truthful in it’s nature, that small sentence does way more harm than good. It’s working as a hindrance for sustainable development.

 

Why words matter

Let’s deconstruct the sentence.

By writing ’Eight of them are in Asia, two in Africa’, it’s easy to infer, that no other continent in the world is home to one of the rivers causing 90% of the pollution. This is still completely true and in line with the article but it has unfortunate side effects:

  1. You are basically saying to everyone outside these geographical areas, that this problem is confined to two specific regions, which make people outside these areas distance themselves from the problem, seeing as it’s “over there”. It becomes Somebody Else’s Problem*
  2. People who actively take steps to lower their plastic waste feel discouraged because they are let to believe that their actions have no impact at all. This will leave them less likely to want to change their habits or push for change in the future.

Additionally, you risk enhancing old believes that Asia and Africa do not care about the environment. This is, of course, a generalization, not to mention an outdated view of the two continents but unfortunately, the western part of the world still views Asia and Africa as lazy, indifferent or unknowledgeable to environmental issues.

 

What to do instead

Had they instead chosen a solution orientated caption, they could have fed into the positive wave of change already taken place around the world – the focus on oceanic plastic pollution. If the World Economic Forum wanted to leave the reader more informed but also more likely to support anti-pollution initiatives in the future, they could have replaced the caption with something like this:

‘By knowing which 10 we can focus on targeted solutions, with higher success rates’ 

They could even just have copied points from the article itself, for instance:

‘The rivers all had two things in common; a generally high population living in the surrounding region – sometimes into the hundreds of millions – and a less than ideal waste management process’

 

Why it works

The first example is simply putting a positive outlook on a dire situation. Yes, the ocean is filled with plastic, but by pinpointing the 10 biggest sources, we can act.

Action is the key word, because only presenting your audience with the (often negative) facts of global pollution issues and climate change, serves as an emotional paralyzer.

What the heart hears is: The world sucks and no one, especially you, can do anything about it. You might as well go back to facebook and kittens.

Instead, by choosing a more positive angle you are telling your audience, yes, this is a bad situation, but knowing the facts about it gives us the power to act.

In the second example, you’re getting even more specific in regards to what needs to be done, so we can turn the problem around.

It would send a signal that 90% of the world’s oceanic plastic pollution is caused by manageable problems that we already know the solutions to – waste management.

Having spent half a decade in waste management I guarantee you that less-than-ideal-waste management is not the same as impossible waste management.

 

But wasn’t it just click-bait?

Possibly. I mean, I clicked on the article. One could argue, that the caption is just right because it evokes resentfulness towards the places responsible for it. But then what? You would have to read the article to the end to get the positive news. And even this is still an issue because you just confirmed the preconceived notion that Asia doesn’t care, meaning that your audience is actually more likely to dismiss the positive news about the advances in Asia because it contradicts a strong held believe – that Asia pollutes, and don’t care. This is what’s known as the backfire effect. You can find a more colorful description of the backfire effect here.

Even if it is just a click-bait aimed at the WEF’s target audience, would you really want to risk pushing everyone who scrolls past the article even further away from taking action on the subject?

 

Small tweaks – Big outcome

I chose to write about this specific article from the World Economic Forum, for two reasons. Firstly because of their inherent role as a promoter of sustainable change, and secondly because their article was well written and had a great balance of facts and behavioral change elements.

The article clarifies how big of an effort China is making to intensify waste management, and mentions Delhi’s ban on disposable plastic. Furthermore, at the bottom of the article, you can find links to articles about how to combat plastic pollution – also known as a call to action.

I want to stress that I think weforum.org overall produces great content and I am a happy reader. Like this nice whale piece, below. It has a positive headline and caption, as well as a great photo – there’s even a sea pun!

 

But the devil is in the detail, and small tweaks like the above can push sustainable development much faster.

By empowering the audience with a positive outlook, you are allowing for much more support towards passing the necessary legislation, investing in alternative products or cleanup technologies, and willingness to change habits. Like giving your audience concrete advice on social media, complete with jokes and pictures.

This also means saving time and money for the companies and regulatory bodies working to solve the problem. But most importantly, you work towards removing more plastic out of our oceans.

 

 

*As coined by the great Douglas Adam, Somebody Else’ Problem refers to people’s ability to simply ignore things they don’t want to deal with.

Communicate with climate change deniers_ wired for stubborness

Communicating with climate change deniers — how to change minds when change is hard

Communicating with climate change deniers is not a walk in the park. Beliefs are tied to the neurological sense of self, and when you challenge that belief with facts, you challenge that sense of self.

Therefore, you need to understand the denier in front of you, and tailor your communication to circumvent neurological stubbornness. This post gives you concrete steps to do that.

 

Back in March 2017, I was asked to give a presentation about behavioral change, and why we have such a hard time changing our mind. This post is the laydown of that talk.


Why are there still climate deniers?

With the dire news of yet again surpassing a threshold of CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere, I want to talk a little bit about why there are still climate deniers out there, and how you should approach them.

With all the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, it seems mindboggling that anyone would refuse to believe in it. Some of those people are your neighbors, some are your family members, and some are presidents. You might find yourself thinking, why are people so stupid, the evidence is right there?

Turns to we’re not stupid, just human, and there are different reasons why some people don’t seem to get down with climate facts.

Let’s dig in.

Social bubbles and no-fact land

Two of the causes are social bubbles and the post-factual world.

I won’tCommunicate with climate change deniers - Somethinggreen.org go deep into this, but in short; you howl with the wolfs in your pack.

The same thing goes for posting on the internet. You only see posts from people, who are posting the same general themes and content as you.

 

Why? Because Facebook and other social platforms make a profit by keeping you online longer, and you will keep scrolling if the updates in your feed if it excites you. Hence, your feed has been tailored by algorithms to show you only things you will like, keeping you scrolling for hours on end.

This also means that you don’t see posts from people you disagree with. Your view of the world isn’t challenged on a regular basis. Instead, you are daily getting confirmation, in the form of likes and comments, that you are right, smart, funny and generally awesome. This has an effect on your sense of ‘being right’, as well as your ego.

The more posts you see from people who are similar to you, the more you feel like your worldview is the one true view.

If you have many climate deniers in your social circle, you will see a lot of climate denial posts. Even if you start out with a little skepticism in regards to climate science, the more climate skeptic links you click on, the more climate change denial you will see in your feed.

 

From equations to crystal healing in a week

You can test this out for yourself by only clinking on certain themes of links for about a week.

 

I accidently proved this point recently, and it took me down the peculiar algorithm rabbit hole of Facebook.

A friend had lost a bet and, as his punishment, had to attend an event about the remote healing of horses — meaning how a stranger can make your sick horse feel better, from miles away, using the power of thought… Right.

 

I found it hilarious that he had lost the bet, and clicked on the event to see just how outrageous it was. Schadenfroh much?

A week later, my Facebook feed informed me that the same friend was attending an event about angels, because he had lost another bet – and again, I clicked on the event to see what he had to endure this time.

Then, social media karma kicked in…

I  started getting adds for crystal healing, angel events, aura readings and so on. I am now struggling with getting rid of these ads in my feed, as I really don’t have a need for chakra healing in my life. I’m pretty sure my solar plexus just need more coffee.

 

So yeah, You reap what you click, and this is the price I pay for succumbing to clicking on punishment-events on Facebook, instead of doing something productive.

 

If you want to dig deeper, here’s more on the subject of social bubbles.

Why fact when I can feel?

In recent years, there’s been a rise in the notion, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

I honestly think that’s a good thing, but…

Unfortunately, this sorta merged into: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and that opinion matters as much as facts. We see this in political debates where a scientist will comment on a situation, and an opposing argument will be laid out, by someone who just feels differently.
This is where I get frustrated because it does not.

 

“But Mona, sometimes it turns out that the science was wrong, so obviously the facts can’t be trusted”.

 

It’s a compelling argument, but it also amplifies the social bubble effect, where everything tends to be binary. Either you’re right and I’m wrong, or vice versa. The world becomes black and white where we move further and further away from having an adult debate …and then we default to our opinions.

It’s true that every now and then, facts are disputed because we learne more about the world — like the fact that led paint isn’t good for you — but doesn’t mean feelings and opinions have the same legitimacy as our current knowledge base.

Bringing emotions to a scientific debate is like bringing a rubber chicken to a gunfight — everybody ends up looking silly.

 

The world we live in now is very different from the world we knew just a few years back. The Post-factual world, as it has been named, allows opinions and emotions to have the same argumentative weight in public discussions.

This link touches on the post-factual world, where opinions get as much (or more) airtime than facts, because it sells.

 

So what happens when we get new information, telling us that we’re wrong?

If it turns out the facts are not in our favor, we say:
‘Oh, we learned a new thing. Let’s see how this changes our worldview’.

…Except we don’t. Because we are humans, and our complex neurological brain soup hasn’t caught up with our current social structures and clickbait laded lives.

And on top of all of this, climate change is a complex problem, without any quick-fix solutions. And this makes it even harder for deniers to trust in science.

 

At the root for both of these causes lie a bigger reason as to why there are still so many climate deniers out there.


Why you can’t change your mind: I am my opinion.

We’ve all had debates with people who where non-movable, and it makes Thanksgiving a night of hell. No matter how much evidence you present them with, they just become more and more stubborn. Why is that?

It’s long been recognized in the fields of sociology and psychology, that the more you identify with your opinion, or stance — meaning the more you feel it’s a part of your personality — the harder it is for you to change your mind about it.

This is especially true if it also relates to your social/family life, like a spiritual community for instance (think Scientology or other cults).

It turns out the reason for this isn’t just psychological, it’s biological.

 

These days there is a lot of brain research happening and it’s connections to our emotions, mood, mental disorders, and decision-making processes. And the results will blow your mind.

 

One study conducted by Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, is especially interesting for anyone working with behavioral change.

The team put people inside fMRI scanners and gave the participants information about different topics. Some of the information was designed to go against the current belief systems of the participant.

 

”In this study, we performed functional MRI to measure the brain activity of 40 individuals with strong political views as they encountered arguments against their beliefs … Inside the fMRI scanner, participants saw a series of statements they previously indicated strongly believing, followed by several challenging counterarguments.

After participants read all five counterarguments, the original statement was shown again and they reported their post-challenge belief strength. The difference between pre-scan and post-challenge ratings was used as a measure of belief change.”

 

So in short, they measured how the brain reacted to new information, that contradicted the existing worldview.

And the results are in: BRAAAAINS…

I’ll get into what this means below the picture,  but enjoy the pretty brains.

 

Figure 1: Brain activation during challenges to political vs. non-political beliefs. From: Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.

 

As you see there are two different color schemes on this image.

(If you can’t see that you’re probably colorblind, and should buy a pair of the new, ultra cool EnChroma color blindness glasses)

The colors are not for aesthetics. The blue and green’ish colors are the areas in the brain that light up when the participants are given the non-political information. The red and yellow’ish colors are the areas with the political information.

 

These two types of information make the Christmas lights in the brain illuminate different areas. Why??

The non-political info lights up the frontal lobe. That’s the part of the brain responsible for making rational choices.

The political information, on the other hand, light up in the areas of the brain associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

Let’s recap: Your political convictions is, on a neurological level, associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

This is really important because it means that there is a deep biological, neural link between you and your political opinion. You can’t talk reason to this part of the brain, meaning…

 

Your audience is emotional and neurologically attached to their belifssystem. When you tell them they are wrong, you are challenging the very foundation of their existence.

 

If you are working with climate communication, I would suggest that you get the above tattooed on your wrist, because it makes a world of a difference in your work.

No matter how many facts you pour onto someone, you will not change their mind – in fact, as a self-preservation method they might refute your facts and become even more stubborn in their belief. This is the backfire effect.

There is, sort to speak, a neurological stubbornness in all of us, which can make mind-changing a daunting task.

 

A shortcut to mind-changing

 

Changing your mind is hard.

Does this mean that your effort is in vain, or that it will only pay off in the far future? Luckily, no. The before mentioned study found that:

 

Post-challenge belief strength was reduced for both political and non-political statements, indicating that the counterevidence did, at least temporarily, affect reported belief strength.

However, the change was significantly greater for non-political beliefs. Follow-up questionnaires completed weeks later showed that reduced belief strength persisted for the non-political beliefs.

 

What this little gem also say is, your effort is not in vain. There is some change, even if temporary, and even if your receiver won’t admit to it — I have a coworker like that.

We see the gradual change all around us. Whether it’s the global community slowly accepting anthropogenic climate change, or your spouse admitting, after 5 freaking years, that you were right about ‘that thing’.

 

More importantly:
It’s easier to change your beliefs about non-political issues than political ones, as these are not as strongly tied up to your sense of self. This also means…

 

 You can and should use non-political issues as an entrance to mind changing.

 

There are a number of small shortcuts you can use when conveying environmental information.

 

Okay, this post is already like 1 trillion words long, but don’t fret!

In the follow-up post, I’ll give you a hands-on example of how I personally circumvent the neurological resistance to information when I give talks. There will be spaceships!

—-

If you have an audience that needs a good brain-tickle, don’t be afraid to reach out! Something Green does content writing for web pages, newsletters, Social Media and more.

 

 

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. Spoiler, 

 

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 tools 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.

Social Media Behavioral Change Healthy eating

 

We all know smoking is bad, and exercise and a healthy diet is good, but somehow we’re not all super healthy 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 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 entire team, myself included, was swamped with work. And 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: http://roskilde.dk/de-3-stoerste-spoergsmaal-om-din-nye-affaldsordning

So yes, I am obviously not a creative genius. I spend 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 planed a recycling event on valentines day! So, when I promoted it I added a bunch of hearts and romance, and made the header: WE LOVE TRASH! It was a close save, but it worked.

Maybe April fools isn’t your thing. That’s cool. Here 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 you can’t put cardboard with your paper.

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 question 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 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 own 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.

 

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 add an Instagram filter.

 

Summing-up

 

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 😉