SIGEF: Social Media with an Impact

Green frog campaign video
Green frog campaign video
By Viola Krebs, edited by Yeabsera Petros, traduction française Celine Gest, traducción española Raquel Pazos
04 November 2014

The first edition of the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF 2014) took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 22 to 24 October 2014 at the International Conference Centre Geneva (CICG). SIGEF 2014 is organized by Horyou, the action oriented social network for social good, where Organizations (NGOs, Foundations, and Associations), Personalities, and Members support and promote solidarity through actions while advocating a humanistic approach to technology at all levels: local, national, and global.

ICVolunteers played an active role in this conference with its Director, Viola Krebs, leading the workshop on the impact of social media and taking part in the ‘Organizer's Award Committee’ for the participating projects. ICV also provided interpreters and logistical support to the conference.

Social media is a common terminology in today’s world. There is a general understanding of its role as a communication tool. The rapid development of the Internet, supported by technologies, has pushed connectivity as well as networking to an unprecedented scale. For anyone using it, social media has made it possible to influence our immediate circle, professional and personal, as well as society at large in all fields and areas. However, does that necessarily make social media ‘social’? How can social media be best used by community and humanitarian organizations to increase awareness to their causes? How can these groups and individuals use social media to tell the world about their causes? How can they mobilize people? How can they increase visibility? These were some of the questions which were discussed during the social media workshop.

During the course of the session, a definition of social media was provided by the first speaker, Nagidmy Marquez of Horyou. Social media has been the tool for corporations, non-profits, and organizations to get their message across. Along the way, many challenges arise on a daily basis.

The second speaker, Meriwether Hardie of Rainforest Alliance showed two short videos created and put out on the web by her organization. Both of them focus on raising awareness about the Follow the frog campaign, an initiative created to help educate consumers on sustainable living by choosing to buy sustainably produced products when shopping, such as those that have attained the Rainforest Alliance seal (a little green frog). The first of the videos went viral and got over four million hits on Youtube. Meriwether also explained that her organization works directly and indirectly with thousand farmers from around the world. Advice about specific crops, farming practices and ways to market products are at the heart of what the Rainforest Alliance stands for. Meriwether explained that her organization uses nine different social platforms to get the message across to different audiences around the world. She provided a list of suggestions on does and don’ts when it comes to using social media. 

This list was further completed through the discussion that followed, in which the moderator, Viola Krebs, asked the workshop participants to provide feedback to what they had heard. Some of the key questions asked were: Why do we share a link? And what is the strategy behind any news item put out there? People will follow an online link if it somehow speaks to them. It can be funny, super positive or also shocking. The audience seemed to agree that, for non-profit organizations, it was probably a better strategy to strive toward positive and funny story telling, as commercial media already provide plenty of tragic and negative news. Below is a list of recommendations that stem from the overall discussion and input by speakers:

Do use…

  • Humor
  • Photos/visuals
  • Short, punchy messages
  • Interactive engagement/user-generated content
  • Authentic stories
  • Messages allowing to create a sense of purpose and belonging

Don’t use...

  • Overly negative and depressing news: there is a lot to be done to change the world, non-profits can show that there are solutions
  • Text heavy posts
  • Long messages about organizations rather than action

For Non-Profits with little means (which is the case for most), it might also be useful to establish alliances (internally and externally), in order to overcome some of the overly technical issues (working as a video creator and editor, for example, is actually a profession that is highly technical). 

Further, it is necessary to choose one’s audience and the most appropriate means of communications (often more than one), in order to get the message across, as well as goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. 

Interesting questions asked:

  • What about monetizing hits for a video like the one launched for the Green Frog campaign?
  • What is our responsibility as individuals and social entrepreneurs? (e.g. providing accurate content that has been fact-checked)
  • Use the right language depending on the target public
  • Choose the right means, platform and slogan
  • Publish in multiple languages if you can
  • Do not forget that social media platforms are not yours – meaning, it is important to build your own mailing list and basis
  • Use a toolbox of communication means, often not one but multiple means are the answer (this includes social media, mobile technology and SMS, etc.)
  • Do not forget that social media is a reflection of the people who are using them

If used in such a way, social media can be a great vehicle to positively impact society at all levels.

Co-Leaders: Meriwether Hardie, Rainforest Alliance / Nagidmy Marquez, Horyou

Facilitator: Viola Krebs, ICVolunteers

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