Behind the curtain: How CCL Virginia uses social media
By Jessica Feng
Snap, caption, and upload—that’s a big way Gen Z, the social media generation, is contributing to climate advocacy.
With 3.8 billion users as of January 2020, social media platforms have become a significant source of information and connection worldwide, especially for the younger generation. When I first started volunteering with my local CCL chapter, I was shocked to find that there was no Instagram account. After the first chapter meeting, I realized the root of the issue: the demographic was generally older and didn’t understand how to use newer platforms like Instagram.
[Editor’s note: If that sounds like you, check out our introductory social media trainings on CCL Community to get started!]
Starting the accounts
In December 2018, Stephanie Burns, a state co-coordinator for Virginia, had realized the same need for wider outreach. She created the CCL Virginia Twitter account. Having one account for the whole state, rather than individual chapter accounts, worked well. “We can showcase the work of chapters around the state and we don’t need to duplicate effort or expect every chapter to have their own account,” Burns said.
In order to increase participation from CCL volunteers, she had a workshop on using Twitter at the 2019 statewide conference.
In July 2020, high school sophomore Yasmine Marrero helped expand CCL Virginia’s social presence even more, by launching the CCL Virginia Instagram account. “Stephanie and I both realized that we needed to have more of an online presence to get the word out about CCL,” Marrero said, and Instagram would help reach an even younger segment of potential volunteers. Like Burns, Marrero also held a training of her own focusing on using Instagram.
Obstacles and successes
The team has met and overcome some challenges with social media, like finding time to create content, identifying leadership for the pages, and increasing participation on the platforms.
For one thing, identifying topics to post about and creating graphics for the posts takes time. “We have school, work, and a lot of stuff that comes before volunteer work. [Creating posts] is a bit difficult because it takes a lot of time,” Marrero said. CCL has provided some resources to make it easier, such as these graphic templates. Plus, we always shout out accomplishments from our members and advertise upcoming meetings.
The method that works for me is setting a weekly time to find graphic inspiration, look through CCL emails and national Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to find post ideas, and making the post in one sitting. As our social team continues to grow, it will get easier to manage more content.
Another key component of social media management is leadership. As Burns said, “I think that leadership is critical because you need somebody who has a vision of where we should be heading, teaching people how to use these technologies, and keeping people energized and engaged.”
At the end of the day, not every climate advocate will want to use social media. “It’s a totally different habit and it’s a tough habit to form if you’re not used to doing it,” Burns acknowledges. “And it has to be fun. If it’s not fun and feels like a chore, people are not going to want to do it.” If you’re someone for whom social media feels like a chore, there are plenty of other valuable ways to advance your chapter’s work. But if you find it fun, try setting some goals and diving in!
Goals and results
In CCL Virginia, Marrero explains, “We really want to make sure that we’re interacting with people so that we can inform them about climate change, different people’s policies, and the bill itself.” In addition, our goals include building up the volunteer base and having individual accounts help build a CCL community on the platforms.
We’ve already seen our social media activity yield some positive results with our member of Congress. In one case, we saw a tweet from Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA-05) about the importance of bipartisanship. We replied to that tweet, saying we looked forward to bipartisan solutions to climate change. This led to an invitation for a face-to-face meeting.
In today’s world, social media is going to continue playing a critical role in spreading the word about CCL. Although it may be hard to grow a social media account, it has the potential for reaching a much wider audience. If you’re at all interested in social media, I urge you to join CCL’s Social Media Action Team to learn more or start exploring social media for your chapter/state.
Jessica Feng is a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and a volunteer with the Fairfax, VA chapter of CCL. She has been working with the CCL Virginia Instagram team since July 2020 and is passionate about environmental science. Jessica wrote this piece as part of CCL’s Youth Blog Writing Team.