Living Case Studies: Social Media and Sustainable Agriculture


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  • Photo credit: Grantees
  • I wanted to talk today about how grist is using sites like Facebook and Twitter to achieve our mission. Because Grist is, at it’s core, a website, our cases are going to be very different from some of the other examples shared, but I believe ours learning can be applied to your work.
  • First a little context—Grist’s mission. So our core goals are to help communicate what is going on in the movement around climate and sustainability to a broader, younger audience of people who may not consider themselves environmentalists, help them understand how those issued relate to their lives, and move those people to action. We do this a few ways. One is through irreverence and humor. Talking about polar bears on melting icebergs all day can make you want to jump off of an iceberg yourself. Or even worse, stick you head in the sand and ignore the problem. So we use humor to break through that barrier—we love our punny headlines. And we also reach a wider audience by covering issues that transcend the old-school treehugging of yore. Our food coverage is a great example of that. In this room, we all understand how food and climate are related, but most people don’t associate the two. So food is an important area for us, but it’s also a key entry point into all of our issues; food traffic is one of our biggest drivers. It is consistently among our top-read content—there are usually at least two to as many of four food stories in our “top five most viewed” list. And when we ran a series on nitrogen a year or so ago, we found that people spent three times as long on that coverage than they did on other stories on our site at that time. In other words—food is gold, especially on social sites.
  • To give you a sense of what success looks like for us, here is our ladder of engagement.
  • But we also have a similar ladder—moving people from on-ramps to real deeper conversation. Social can hook people into all of these, and works especially well with on-ramps.
  • So for us, social tools are important for a number of reasons. They are well suited to on-ramps Younger audiences are using these tools. 48% of young people get their news through Facebook. Half of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up; 28 % before even getting out of bed They help us turn our audience into evangelizers—allowing them to share info with their networks. That drives traffic and it drives the kind of traffic we want—people who might be new to these issues. They allow for personality and humor in a way that traditional online SEO-based tools do not. Food blows up in this space
  • So I wanted to walk you through a few experiments we have been doing—specifically on Twitter. The first was based on a piece that Tom Philpott wrote about all of the horrific things in soda. We saw huge traction on this story and decided to jump on an opportunity. So within less than 24 hours we convened a twitter chat. [Poll the audience who knows what] I am sure most of you heard about the Obama twitter chat at the beginning of the month—basically they revolve around a hashtag where people can tweet questions, answers, comments. The cool thing is when people tweet to this hashtag, it shows up in their feed. So all of their followers see it and can get hooked into the content—it creates a resonance that doesn’t happen as easily via email, etc. So with a few hundred tweets to this chat, we actually reached 100s of thousands of people.
  • From that we decided to take the time to plan a more intentional chat around a series we were presenting about the economics of biking. We took the time to promote this chat more widely over a period of about a week. And we saw great results. Once of the best parts of this example is this hashtag is still being used by people and to tag content unrelated to Grist . So we are getting this core idea out there. We don’t control the messaging anymore and you have to be comfortable with that.
  • Fun example.
  • You can see exactly on this graph when we hired a social media coordinator and you can see exactly what that means for our traffic.
  • The great benefit of social media is you can create a campaign in 140 characters or less. You must be thoughtful and plan and connect it to your core mission, but you also should be prepared to jump into action when there is opportunity.
  • The beauty of social media is, if something doesn’t work—it’s gone in a flash.
  • You can’t learn until you try. This is a great project for a young, committed, sharp intern of a junior communications staff who wants to “won” something.
  • - ROC’s campaign was not specifically targeted to get signatures but rather test the different channels of social media and our messaging. In Oct 2010 ROC held the ROC Summit. Nearly 200 attendees representing Food and Ag gathered. It was here were the ROC policy platform was deliberated and approved. This policy work would be the backbone to the campaign Campaign: At a pivotal time when the new governor was being elected it was time for a change. ROC wanted to ensure new policy agenda represented the needs for healthy food and farms
  • 4 Main Tactics: Messaging, Canvassing, Social Media & Non-profit Partnership
  • The first tactic is to create a plan and how to execute. Action must be aligned with ROC mission, Action must be clear and concise A Timeline is critical because it’s the backbone to the campaign. Here you lay the ground work Audience must care about the cause Define content (message), explain problem, needs and why its important to create a change – ROC did this through video Plan out what means to best deliver message: in this case we created a webpage with embedded video & we emailed our network of supporters
  • ROC Webpage: Added embedded video directly onto site to engage audience Integrated our CRM platform- Salsa to incorporate i-frame page where our supporters can directly sign our petition
  • Second Step: Canvassing, hit the streets to build a grassroots movement (mobilize) Interns/Volunteers are extremely important in helping spread the work, distribute petitions and input data Canvassing does two things; allows to create a personal connection, get new emails and gets them on the spot These new supporters were integrated through a similar process called Rapid Donor Cultivation (introduction email (which also also people to connect via FB, Twitter), interactive video, and take action email
  • Org included: Physicians for Social Responsibility, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, California Food & Justice Coalition, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, Regional Obesity Prevention Program, Hunger Action LA, Food Democracy Now, Slow Food USA -> Partnership was strategic b/c it represented a vast array of orgs from different sectors in the food and farming sector -> At the same time it was difficult because we tired working with some orgs that aren’t so networked and willing to share -> Point our CAUSE (Social Justice) to PSR ( Health) GOING TO THE EDGE OF THE NETWORK
  • Facebook: Easy way to post and get info out. During this campaign ROC posted our campaign a few times but not a big response Twitter: Another easy way to share info. ROC tweeted the campaign with similar results to FB. Online Petition: Free and easy to use. Here ROC focused most of our energy generating 7,731 signatures. gives you ability to target audience based on interest
  • was a great activism platform/ new tool ROC discovered Allows you to target specific audience: petitions are broken down by specific causes such as: Health, Environment, Education and Sustainable Food They have a very large following and people on are activist looking for causes to support Great helpful tools to set up, widgets are available In this particular situation ROC also used our petition to purchase emails to build our email base
  • A variety of tools exist to Measure your analytics, ie Google analytics,, insights and hootsuite For ROC we really measured our success based on Google analytics and the total number of sign-ons we had We used our CRM platform, Salsa, to view email stats on open rates, click-through and unsubscribe used mirror pages to see if FB generated more traffic or email list Hootsuite: Great tool to follow conversations
  • Google Analytics: 5,771 page views Facebook Insights: lets you breakdown into detailed info. In the “Daily Activity” Breakdown you can see exact # of likes, comments, etc Twitter: Failed to use hashtag,
  • Let’s summarize (briefly): What Worked: The partnerships developed in this campaign truly helped ROC emerge as a network working together to create change. It helped reach a new audience that helped spread the word and get more people to sign our petition Webpage: easy to integrate sign on platform great site to generate signatures 7,731 signatures – Easy, didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. ROC found a new and successful way to promote our campaign through an online platform, Improvements: - In our next campaign ROC plans to better use social media as a tool to generate more signatures. -Organizing the campaign itself was very time consuming due to developing these partnership ROC was not as active as we should have been via our social media outlets Need to better direct traffic our site Unexpected things are always to be expected (timing) Challenges Conveying complex messages to the public – especially ROC’s Policy Platform 10 planks covering issues from env, labor, food access and economic viability of farmers Making policy work exciting and interesting
  • Questions
  • Living Case Studies: Social Media and Sustainable Agriculture

    1. Flickr photo by pro soil Living Case Studies: Lessons Learned Social Media and Sustainable Agriculture Beth Kanter, Visiting Scholar The David and Lucile Packard Foundation West Coast Sustainable Agriculture Grantees Peer Session July, 2011
    2. Agenda Spectragram Living Case Studies Quick Reflection
    3. I love grass fed beef You can explain complex issues like cap and trade in 140 characters Policymakers do not pay attention to messaging that comes through social media channels Agree or Disagree
    4. What Are Living Case Studies? Traditional Case Study Finished, Tidy, Packaged, Talks About Success Living Case Study Work in progress, vibrant, messy Real time learning Open to input, empowerment
    5. Presentation 7 minutes …. Feedback (13 minutes) -identify best practice -clarifying questions -resource sharing -give feedback
    6. grist on the social web recent experiments
    7. grist mission grist sets the agenda by showing how green is reshaping our world. we cut through the noise and empower a new generation to make change.
    8. gristastic ladder ‘o engagement
    9. gristastic ladder ‘o engagement
    10. grist on the social web
    11. twitter chat: #sodawars quick and effective way to give content more legs
    12. “ super” twitter chat: #bikenomics 840 tweets reached close to 250,000 people created an entirely new avenue for the topic
    13. twitsourcing #hipsterfarmerbands over 815 tweets in two days reach of over 290,000 people being quick and opportunistic reaches outside new audience
    14. what we’ve learned if properly tended, social is an incredibly effective tool to grow your audience.
    15. what we’ve learned be nimble.
    16. what we’ve learned don’t be afraid to experiment.
    17. my advice dive in.
    19. Case Study: Using Social Media to Test Messaging
    20. The Campaign: Urge Governor-elect Jerry Brown to Stand up for Safe, Sustainable Food <ul><li>Take action and sign this petition urging Governor Jerry Brown and the California Legislature to push for comprehensive legislation that supports healthy food and farms for all Californians. </li></ul><ul><li>Please support healthy food and farms for all Californians I urge Governor Jerry Brown and the California Legislature to push for comprehensive legislation that supports healthy food and farms for all Californians. </li></ul>
    21. Tactics
    22. Messaging <ul><li>Create goal </li></ul><ul><li>Identified action </li></ul><ul><li>Created timeline </li></ul><ul><li>Identified audience </li></ul><ul><li>Define content to raised awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Identified best ways to deliver messaging </li></ul>
    24. Canvassing Eat Real Festival San Francisco Street Food Festival
    25. Nonprofit Partnerships <ul><li>Roots of Change partnered with 9 nonprofit organizations to help promote our petition and strengthen our network </li></ul>
    26. Social Media Facebook : great tool to help raise awareness and build a movement. Twitter : low investment tool that ROC uses reach a broad audience of followers interested in food and farming. : A free online petition platform for social change that raises awareness about important causes and connects people to opportunities for powerful action.
    28. Analysis
    29. Measuring Effectiveness <ul><li>Website Analytics: </li></ul><ul><li>Google Analytics : great tool that helps measure traffic and detailed statistics about the visitors to your website. </li></ul><ul><li>Salsa CRM Platform: easy to use tool to better under email metrics such as open rates and click through. </li></ul><ul><li>Social media analytics </li></ul><ul><li> a popular URL shortening service helps trace your link performance. </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook Insights: provides metric about your Facebook pages. </li></ul><ul><li>Hootsuite: allows you to monitor keywords and manage multiple accounts </li></ul>
    30. Campaign Results
    31. Lessons Learned <ul><li>What worked: </li></ul><ul><li>- Partnerships with nine organizations </li></ul><ul><li>ROC’s webpage and petition </li></ul><ul><li>Online petition – </li></ul><ul><li>Areas of Improvement: </li></ul><ul><li>Integration of Social Media with campaign – specifically Facebook and Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Stick to timeline </li></ul><ul><li>Continually driving traffic to our website </li></ul>
    32. Next Steps: Food Movement Rising Please visit:
    34. Thank You For Your Time