[BY S. SALMI]
One of the best parts of the recent South Sound Climate Action Convention was the inclusion of skill-building sessions. As case in point, Sarah Francis from the consulting firm ActionSprout offered advice on how activists groups could better use social media.
I came away with some helpful pointers, such as that Green Pages should concentrate on managing a few media platforms really well rather than struggling to keep a larger number of them current. Francis said that nothing is worse than coming across a platform that appears to be abandoned. This makes a lot of sense to me. When looking for calendar items I often find groups whose Facebook page hasn’t been updated in months even though their website offers up-to-date information (or vice versa).
Maximizing engagement requires a reader-oriented approach which could go against organizational business as usual. For example, Francis noted that traditional p.r. doesn’t engage people using social media nearly as well as material that is personal, lively and visual. I can see that at work on a daily basis. The postings from the bigger environmental groups tend to be more staid — and invariably generate much less attention when reposted on Green Pages’ Facebook page.
Francis focused on Facebook, arguing that it was the best platform for most activist groups because of its market dominance and flexibility. In contrast, she suggested that Twitter was primarily useful if you were trying to develop a personality cult (think Donald Trump and his tweets). Certainly the most impressive local media outreach efforts I’ve recently seen have placed a heavy emphasis on Facebook.
That said, Francis underplayed the negative impacts of Facebook. For example, thus far Green Pages generates much greater Facebook engagement from provocative — and simplistic — images than from long-form journalism.
This may at least partly reflect that we are in an early stage of building Green Pages’ Facebook presence. However, even Francis acknowledged (indirectly) that Facebook is the media equivalent of fast food. For example, readers can be lost if you link to a webpage that takes even a second too long to load.
Impatience with a one-second delay? Really? How can American society address the increasingly complex issues of our time with such an advanced form of Attention Deficit Disorder?