29 July 2023

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Man is a Social Animal.’ Let us look at the term Social Animal: It best describes humans in the biological context, but in the world of communications too, it rings true. Lost in what we are trying to say?

Look at Social and Animal separately. Or rather, Social (Media) and Animal (Conservation). If you have noticed, Social Media has become a powerful tool to mobilise support for wildlife conservation – the Go-to media for such crucial initiatives.

What do you think forced the Mexican Government to change its legislation to protect the Vaquita (the world’s rarest marine creature) population? You guessed right, Social Media! A social media campaign run by WWF and bolstered by Instagram and Twitter posts from Leonardo DiCaprio did the needful, garnering responses from 200,000 citizens worldwide and resulted in forcing the hand of the Government.

And this is just one example. What gives Social Media the edge? Let us answer this by looking at what hinders wildlife conservation initiatives from achieving desired results and how traditional media is short-equipped to counter it. Firstly, wildlife conservation is not really a top of the mind activity for most of us. Secondly, drilling the need for conservation repeatedly over traditional media will cost a lot. Thirdly, wildlife conservation is not just local; it is a global issue. Spending on traditional media in different parts of the world will be extremely difficult, given the paltry budgets that conservationists have access to. Fourthly, wildlife conservation is not just limited to teenagers, even senior citizens have their sympathy for this cause. So it is clear that a shotgun approach of spraying messages on traditional media will not work in such cases.

Given its nature, Social Media has the potential to deliver the message to the appropriate target group across continents, in a short span of time and at a fraction of a cost that would have been incurred in traditional media.

Besides, Social Media can be used in far more innovative manners to drive greater consumer connect and the loosening of the purse strings. #LastSelfie, a popular social media campaign launched by World Wide Fund in collaboration with Snapchat, raised awareness and encouraged donations to protect the endangered species. It urged the users to take a screenshot of the endangered animals before they disappeared from their screens and the world.

The users were encouraged to share the picture on their social media handles and willingly contribute to the noble cause. WWF capitalised on two trends to target millennials: Selfies and Social Media. They used Snapchat’s disappearing photo feature to symbolise how quickly endangered species are disappearing. The campaign garnered 5000 shares and was viewed 6 million times on Twitter within 8 hours. It covered its monthly goal for donations in 3 days.

The Endangered Emoji Campaign initiated by World Wide Fund prompted Twitter users to donate by tweeting emojis of endangered animals. The campaign was successful in garnering attention. It received 59,618 signups and 5,59,000 mentions on Twitter within the first two months of the campaign. The idea for the campaign was sparked by the discovery of 17 characters in the emoji alphabet that represented endangered species. WWF used the popularity of emojis such as Spider Monkey, Galapagos Penguin, Sumatran Tiger, etc. to raise donations.

Social Media can increase pro-conservation behaviour among the public, encourage conservation funding and lead to policy changes. It uses innovative strategies like visual storytelling, hashtags and interactive campaigns to organise protests, lobby support and share e-petitions. When used wisely, Social Media can unite voices and draw attention to make wildlife conservation an enduring mission. For best results, we feel – as we observed earlier – bring the Social and Animal together.

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