I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the West Coast Green Conference. Thank you WCG.
My presentation on Social Media and Sustainability opened with the following words from the conference’s two famous keynote speakers:
On September 27th, the charismatic former California Governor Jerry Brown said, “We have choices.” Al Gore’s excellent speech included, “We have to go far… quickly!”
How do we do that? In order to create social impact, I believe, we have to go beyond talking to like-minded people. We have to reach what I call “the mildly curious.” Not the converted.
Our Presidential Debates last week demonstrated social media in action in using a 10-foot interface (television), whereby the audience in the live debates had handheld devices and by clicking on buttons voted positive or negative or no reactions. When Barack Obama was talking, the Democratic approval rating rapidly rose. When McCain spoke, it radically fell. The same occurred when McCain spoke – the Republican approval rating rose and fell when he stopped. To me this social media example is more of a gimmick than a reflection of true action or true influence. Why? Because the already converted were voting for their chosen party. I believe to “go far…quickly, “ we need to talk to the “mildly curious.” The mildly curious will review something if it lands in their lap in a meaningful way (i.e. in their language, style of media [audio, video, text, etc.]) and on their style of device (i.e. mobile, laptop, Xbox, etc.) and within their chosen community (i.e. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
I feel the mildly curious are absolutely crucial to spreading consumer choices we have around sustainability. They are our connectors to the subconscious of the unconscious (the uncurious) people out there: The ones in denial or who literally have zero interest in learning more about a particular subject they feel is ‘opposite’ to their beliefs or interests. The mildly curious will come across less radical than the curious and certainly less annoying than the evangelically converted. The unconscious will listen and often times follow. Celebrity advertising has shown us this for years. The non-radical, stunning looking Hollywood star starts driving a sexy looking fuel-efficient car, and hybrid sales climb within the mildly curious sector. However, when Ed Begley (a converted evangelist) pushed his fuel-efficient cars back in the early 90s only the other evangelists followed, and they followed FAR from quickly.
All this is to say, we have to start talking to people outside our circles, and we have to reach these people in a way that is meaningful to them using social media tools and applications. Social media is about facilitating dialogue, encouraging participation and welcoming debate. It is about taking your content to where your audience is virtually, and geographically in the case of device. It does not stop there, however. Once people are participating the value comes from how we collect, store, aggregate and use the data/information gathered and how we use the results to guide our next moves.
We will post the video and presentation next week for the curious.
If anyone has any examples of how they have successfully used social media to create social impact(s), please let us know.