The Environment and Social Media

Karin Gunther Russ, MS, RN
National Coordinator of the Fertility and Reproductive Health Working Group

CHE’s mission includes sharing emerging scientific research on various environmental factors that can contribute to disease and disability. The best research data in the world cannot make an impact if it is not widely accessible and read. In today’s world, this means making wise use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and web-based blogs. Many of you may be quite experienced in social media, but for those who aren’t or who aren’t aware of the social media tools CHE uses, below is a brief overview of various types of social media and strategies that have been shown to work well to communicate environmental health messages.

Social media is an increasingly effective method of reaching a broad audience. The Pew Internet Project reports 67% of adults who go online use social networking sites. Social media use ranges from 83% of 18-29 year olds to 35% of those age 65 years and older (1). Environmental organizations are one of the most active groups using social media. Craig Newman, founder of Craigslist.org, conducted a review in 2011 and found that environmental groups are second only to animal advocates in the average number of Facebook posts and tweets per week (2).

To reach different audiences, various social media applications may be most advantageous. The Pew Internet Project and Pingdom,com offers insights into user trends (3,4):
Facebook

  • Two-thirds of online adults say that they are Facebook users
  • Women are more likely to use Facebook than men
  • Facebook use is especially common among adults under 29 years of age

Twitter

  • Individuals under age 50 (especially those 18-29) are those most likely to use Twitter
  • African Americans represent the largest ethnicity of Twitter users
  • Urban-dwellers are significantly more likely than both suburban and rural residents to be on Twitter

Top Blogs

  • The average top blog has 45% female and 55% male readers
  • Average reader age is 41 years old
  • Median age of readers is 38 years

Social media provides a favorable platform for nonprofit organizations to reach their target audience to achieve a variety of goals. Facebook is most commonly used by nonprofits for building awareness and engaging a strong base of supporters for the organization (5). Engaging the audience means more than just sharing information; it encourages them to take the information presented and act on it. The action may be as simple as commenting or sharing the information with their networks, providing evidence that the topic offered is of interest. Information shared may be new data, and may also include news and upcoming events to promote attendance. Recruitment consists of enlisting new members, but may also extend to reaching potential funders. In one recent survey, 46% of nonprofits responded that they were fundraising on Facebook (5).

The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide recommends several approaches for using social media to support or promote an existing fundraising campaign, such as friend-to-friend fundraising strategies and using social media tools at live fundraising events (6).

Twitter may be best used to communicate with influencers in the environmental health sector. Twitter also provides an advantage of the ability to locate and engage with users having interests similar to those of your organization. The nonprofit consulting group Socialbrite puts forth a ’60-30-10 rule’ for Twitter content: 60% re-tweets and pointers to promote items from other users or sites, 30% conversation and responses, 10% announcements and events (7)

Blogs have the advantage of providing a larger format for discussion, allowing for the summary of research findings and conversations with key stakeholders (8). In addition to writing a blog for their own organization, nonprofits can engage in blogs from other like-minded groups. CHE members, for example, have found it useful to comment on the blogs of pertinent partners, send important blog entries by others to relevant partners, and write a guest blog for other groups.

Many of the resources mentioned provide advice on the best strategies to make an impact with social media. Experts remind us that social media is designed to be just that—social. Posts that are eye-catching and illicit strong feelings are more likely to start conversations and be shared by viewers. Examples of successful posts illustrate this point.

The most popular post on Facebook in 2011 was “Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami” from the New York Times (9). This suggests that photos are an especially effective way to attract attention to a Facebook post. For other social media tools like blogs, Joseph Romm, physicist, climate expert and founder of the influential blog ClimateProgress.org, points out that the single most important part is the headline, citing the statistic that newspaper readers read 56% of headlines, but only 13 % of stories. Dr. Romm provides specifics on writing a good headline: keep it short, use repetition and common figures of speech to make headlines memorable (10). This applies to tweets as well: ClimateProgress.org reported one of their most popular tweets of 2012 was: Hurricane Sandy: The Worst-Case Scenario For New York City Is Unimaginable (11).

At CHE, we asked some of our coordinators and advisors how they use social media. A range of examples are below. We invite you to visit these sites and link your organization’s site to them. Don’t forget to ‘Like’ us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and comment on the CHE blog. Below are some of the social media sites that CHE uses. What social media sites do you use to advance your environmental health messages?

We look forward to finding more ways to strengthen our social media ties with you.

References

  1. Pew Internet: Social Networking
  2. Nonprofits by area of focus use social media
  3. Pew Internet The Demographics of Social Media Users – 2012
  4. Blog readership demographics – investigating the world’s top blogs
  5. Non-Profit Marketing Guide
  6. Social Media Decision Guide
  7. 24 Best Practices for Nonprofits using Twitter
  8. Should Your Nonprofit Launch a Blog?
  9. Most Shared Articles on Facebook in 2011
  10. Romm, JJ (2012). Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.
  11. Top 12 Most Viewed Climate Progress Posts Of 2012
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