Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition

Unifying the voice of a generation in environmental solidarity

RESOURCE: Social Media that Builds a Movement

on April 25, 2013

Today I took part in a national conference call held by Climate Reality Check entitled “Social Media that Builds a Movement”. They covered some really great tips and tools we can all use to better use social media as an organizing and movement building tool.

Check out the notes I took to start integrating some of these lessons with your campaign or project! We covered how to create engaging content, how to make effective memes, and talked about the climate silence campaign as an excellent case study

For the skimmers out there- here’s the most useful resource included: a toolkit on meme making

Social Media that Builds a Movement

4/25/2013 Climate Reality Check

How to create engaging content (graphics and memes)

–          Do one thing at a time! The climate problem is extremely daunting, so just try to focus on one number at a time.

  • While it’s important to build the bigger picture and tell the whole story, focusing on one or two concrete details at a time helps you build this story over time, but in a way that allows people to understand easily and is much more engaging

–          How to understand the problem- important to capture the scale of the problem and the solution with dramatic imagery (climate change does give us epic visuals)

  • Helps convey the size of the problem that condenses the larger science into a single emotion or feeling
  • People don’t relate very well to global or apocalyptic thinking, so talking about specific impacts is a better way to get people fired up without making them feel like the world is over.

Effective ways to use social media to amplify on the ground actions

–          The big picture- its best to break up social media strategy into three parts and have a plan for each: before the action, during the action, and after the action

  • make a plan for all of these phases based on what your goals are (recruitment, engagement, next steps) and then craft tools/strategy to meet these goals
  • before an action- goal is to make it feel real so that more people relate/are excited to join in
    • use stories from people who are signed up, ask them to tell why they’re doing it
    • if you’re about to reach your recruitment goal, tell people about it!
    • Adds momentum and excitement = more people
    • Use diverse messengers so that your message resonates with as many different communities as possible
  • During an action- show, don’t tell.
    • You should have exciting things to show if you have a successful action!
    • Use quotes from speakers and lots of photos, but mix up your scale (use pics from crowd and speakers)
  • After the action- you want people to feel really good about the next steps
    • Post reflections on numbers, goals that were met
    • Gives you a chance to show more photos, let the movement have a chance to see itself and feel powerful

Best practices for groups with limited capacity

–          Make a plan for the goals you have

  • Goal for how often you want to post, and be concrete

–          Make it part of your routine, this should just be a part of organizing

–          There are some apps schedule social media work for you- tweet deck

–          Focus- get it all done at once, don’t let it be something that is always distracting you! Use your post schedules

–          Follow this advice on meme making!

Meme making

–          Be a movement builder, not a marketer

  • Listen to hash tags (etc) if you’re going to use them
  • Be a trainer and teach others about social media
  • Don’t just list your stories, but list movement stories (because that is what people want to be a part of)

–          What is a meme?

  • the word comes from a book by Richard Dawkins about evolutionary biology- based on the word genes (we spread our genes virally because we’re compelled to)
    • meme is the spread of ideas

–          Why are memes useful?

  • Photos catch people’s attention
    • FB algorithm is programmed to prioritize images
  • Captions travel with photos and memes when other people share them (but not with articles)

–          How to make a good meme?

  • Use Picmonkey.com, especially if you don’t have graphic design skills
  • Be snarky
  • Minimize text, but entice the viewers to read more (in captions, links)
  • Show agency- lift up the people who have made the changes you’re posting about.
  • Include a next step (bare minimum is “click like and share”) petition, letter, event to attend, etc.

–          Using pictures that won’t get you in trouble

  • If you give credit to where you found it/person who took it, you probably won’t get in trouble
  • Worst case scenario is that you have to take it down
  • If you’re really worried, there are creative commons photos that anyone can use

–          What to do with it

  • Post it! But not in a vacuum- call on your network to help you share the image
  • Have a good caption
  • Tag groups or people who helped/are involved- just a subtle hint that they should share it too

Climate Silence: Case Study of using social media to amplify a campaign (breaking the silence on climate during 2012 presidential debates)

–          (check out a really successful climate silence meme here)

–          Most of the effort/challenge is being a good organizer and coming up with a good campaign idea and strategies, the social side of “social media” is the most important one

–          Used moral imagery in this case (duct tape)- this was a very compelling visual message and something national media paid attention to (as they’re always looking for a good political scandal), but coming up with this idea actually took a long time

  • It helps to work with good designers, but the most important part is creating the campaign/content/messaging

–          Built a network of allies and groups to contribute

  • After they generated the original image with tape over candidate’s mouths, EAC then made a meme/poster making tools that people could use to tailor this message and make their own. That way people felt ownership and wanted to share more

–          They were prepared to respond in real time (while watching the debates) that made them super time relevant- rapid response is one of the most key things you can do to generate a wide response

  • You’re not just trying to reach them with something new, you’re connecting to something they already care about



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