Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT) in New Orleans. The theme of the conference was implementing successful social media strategies to increase tourism traffic to specific destinations, but I couldn’t help thinking how these social media skills could all be leveraged to increase conservation and science communication. I left the conference with three important takeaways about social media and the power of communication.
1. Know your story
For conservation to be truly successful, it is critical that people care about the land you are trying to connect. The conference speakers emphasized over and over and over the importance of storytelling and using social media to share your stories with the world. While this is true for Cleveland, Dublin, OH, Flanders, and the other destination representatives who presented, it can also be true for the Triangle Land Conservancy and their preserves, state parks, Audubon Sanctuaries, and more. The symposium constantly emphasized capitalizing on being “yourself;” conservation properties can’t all be the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, but they can embrace their pitcher plants, their fall foliage, their rivers system, whatever it is that makes the properties unique.
2. The rise of the Millennial
One of the best sessions I attended was on millennials, defined here as anyone born after 1980. As our generation becomes older and more important in decision-making, environmental organizations and policy makers may have an easier time making their case to us than the generations ahead of us. For example, according to Sandee Jordan, our speaker, millennials are more likely to care about the environment, to seek outdoor adventures, and even to shop at thrift stores instead of demanding new materials.
However, reaching out to millennials is also very different than to older Americans. Over half of us don’t own a television, and receive our media exclusively through our phones or laptops. Moreover, given that my generation spends an average of 5.4 hours a day on social media, communicating using Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms should be a focal point of communication strategies, not something that is merely added on at the end because it “should” be done.
3. The importance of videos
Videos are an incredible way to share poignant information, create an emotional connection to the viewer, and capture an audience. In the millennial session, Ms. Jordan told us that 50% of millennials watch at least one video a day. Scientists and environmentalists must continue to capitalize on this trend, and invest in creating unique, beautiful, and engaging video content. Almost every single one of the keynote speakers at SoMeT illustrated their points with a video – why can’t we do that as well in our field?