Social media: A tool to pull levers of political will
By Flannery Winchester
Each month, Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosts an online meeting featuring a guest speaker to educate listeners on topics related to climate change and our Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal. Check out recaps of past speakers here.
It’s 2018. For years now, social media has been a big part of many people’s lives in America and across the globe. How does that affect how we conduct our climate advocacy? We welcomed Aimee Sison, the Digital Director at Climate Nexus, to our August 2018 national call to share her expertise and advice.
When it comes to climate change, Aimee says, “We [at Climate Nexus] are very concerned and think that communicating to the public—to American audiences, to influencers and decision makers—is the best way to get action to happen.” Social media isn’t all it takes, of course, but Aimee says to think of it as “another tool in your toolbox.”
Why social media?
If we want to communicate with the public, we have to go where the public spends time—and in droves, the public has flocked to social media over the past decade. Case in point:
“There are five times as many people using Facebook as there are Americans,” Aimee points out. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third most populous. As for Twitter, research shows that six in 10 Americans get their news from that platform. “In this era, we are trying to educate people on what the science actually says about climate change, and not just opinions,” Aimee says. “Having a presence where we can spread real news is really important.”
Community, conversation, connection
Social media can help you achieve three key things: building a community, creating a conversation, and connecting with influencers. These can be helpful for CCL groups of any size, whether you have three or 30 people pulling the levers of political will. “Being online just amplifies that and lets you reach so many more people in your neighborhood and in your extended social networks,” Aimee says.
If you’re focused on the levers of grassroots outreach and chapter development, Facebook pages are a great way to start. Aimee applauded that many CCL chapters already have Facebook pages, and she offered a few tips to help them go further, like using hashtags to make new connections or asking questions to boost engagement, and creating Facebook events that people can RSVP to.
Rule of Thirds
Another tip Aimee offered was the “Rule of Thirds” guideline to make sure what you post is relevant and helpful to your followers. Generally, you want to follow this breakdown:
- One third of your content should be “first person.” That’s content about your group, CCL, our policy, etc.
- One third should be “second person.” These are posts focused on “you,” the follower, such as: “What are you doing to handle the heat this summer?” or “Have you written to your member of Congress lately?”
- One third should be “third person.” This is content shared from other sources, such as news outlets or other local groups. If you’re not sure what to post in this category, Climate Nexus has a Daily Climate Hot News email or a Weekly Clean Energy News email you can subscribe to here.
“You should aim to have a good mix of all three,” Aimee said. “Nobody likes to follow someone who only talks about themselves.”
Elli Sparks, CCL’s Director of Field Development who led the August call, pointed out that this structure actually mirrors a CCL lobby meeting. We begin by introducing ourselves (first person), then offer an appreciation and ask questions of the member or staffers (second person), and close by offering letters or endorsements from the district (third person).
Another way to leverage social media is within the lobbying and grasstops lever by connecting with elected officials, media personalities, or other important people in your community. “Establishing a social media presence and reaching them across those channels is just another way you can do your lobbying work,” Aimee points out. She emphasized that social media is a good supplement to real-life meetings and connections.
For example, you can make sure you’re following your member of Congress on Twitter. Then when it’s applicable, such as when you have a lobby meeting scheduled, you can send a public tweet tagging them and thanking them for meeting with you to discuss climate change. They might even like, retweet, or respond to you directly!
The appeal of social media really lies in that exchange. “Unlike traditional media, social media allows communication to go both ways,” Aimee says. She calls that capability the “most important differentiator” between social media and other media formats like TV, newspapers, and radio. “It’s social, at the end of the day.”
Hear Aimee’s full remarks on our August 2018 podcast or watch the call on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter at @AimeeLouiseNYC. For more on social media, join the Sept. 11 Citizens’ Climate University session “Social Media for Climate Advocates.”