G1 Individual Project (WildAid)

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Hi Prof and course mates!

Introduction

I’m Kenneth and this is a short summary of my individual project on WildAid’s social media strategy. I chose WildAid because conservation is something that I am truly passionate about and I feel that the organisation has been doing some really wonderful work. They currently have 8 programmes and they operate in 11 countries.

Basically WildAid is a not-for-profit organisation (personally I think “not-for-profit” is a much more accurate indication on the nature of NGOs than “non-profit” but that’s just me; moving on…) that has mission to end all illegal wildlife trade, e.g. ivory, sharks fin, and so on. The overall goal of WildAid’s social media strategy is “conservation through communication”.

What’s interesting about WildAid’s social media strategy stems from the nature of their organisation’s goals. Since their mission is to eliminate illegal wildlife trade primarily through influencing consumers, the goal of their strategy is very different from for-profit firms. On top of establishing positive brand awareness, WildAid also needs to push awareness through these channels and try to change consumer behaviour in the arena of personal lifestyle choices. Personally, I think this is a more arduous task than simply selling a product’s benefits to consumers like for-profit firms. Without a physical item to direct consumer attention to, essentially all WildAid has, is an intangible vision of a better future – and that is what it needs to sell.

Research Question

In 2014, WildAid reached 80 million views through social media. My research focuses on how WildAid is achieving such widespread outreach and whether there are ways for it to further improve its social media strategy. A more interesting question to explore would be to what extent has WildAid been in achieving its objectives? Even if outreach has been great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that communication has been effective.

Effective communication is defined in this paper as communication that pushes the receiver into believing and advocating for a cause.

Hence, this paper explores the following research questions:

  1. How does WildAid employ social media to achieve its goal of eliminating illegal wildlife trade through increasing awareness? (RQ1)
  2. How can WildAid further improve its social media strategy to generate greater outreach and awareness? (RQ2)

Data collection

Three social media platforms of WildAid was used for data collection: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The total tracking period was a period of 30 days, from 19 January to 18 February 2016. WildAid has many subsidiary social media platforms, however, the one of interest in this paper is its global account.

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As seen from the graph, we see that WildAid’s social media activity is pretty low leading up to 2nd February. This is because WildAid launched its #jointheherd campaign on 2nd February, where its social media activity sees a large spike.

This is especially interesting as the report can then explore WildAid’s social media campaign before the campaign, and during the campaign.

Findings

My research has led me to realise that WildAid mainly employs 2 elements in its social media strategies. This would be Celebrity Ambassadors and a broad focus.

Since this blogpost is meant to be a summary, and I am quite a verbose person, I will spare the details and give the most crucial ideas of each element.

Celebrity ambassadors, e.g. Yao Ming, enables WildAid to reach a wider audience who aren’t already inducted in the conservation community. This means it is able to reach people who do not have prior interest/awareness in conservation – this is very important for its mission!

A broad focus is seen from its social media platforms posting very general conservation content – even during its #jointheherd campaign, its platforms continued posting initiatives and news on other aspects of conservation, i.e. instead of a focus on ivory trade, it also mentioned sharks’ fins and pangolins. This is effective for people (watchers mostly), who have a general interest in conservation and would simply like to find out more, without any specific area of interest in mind. This is a double-edged sword cause though it can attract people to its platforms, it can also frustrate some others who sees this lack of focus as information spam.

Prior to the campaign, WildAid does not engage its audience effectively either. There are no main calls to action, and its posts are mainly informative in nature. However, it has seen some degree of effective communication, in which its audience made personal decisions that demonstrated the shared values they had with WildAid.

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This was when WildAid posted about Yahoo supporting ivory trade.

During the campaign, WildAid’s media personality changed to one that is highly engaging and personal. WildAid began replying to its audience, encouraging UGC, and explicitly encouraged its audience to take action in joining the campaign. The campaign also involved the use of changing profile pictures to show support, and this is an effective way in generating buzz and interest amongst people. This was done through the setting up of its own campaign website http://www.yearoftheelephant.org.

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Recommendations

All in all, WildAid’s #jointheherd campaign is a vast improvement from the state of its social media strategy prior. There are a few issues, however. The first would be its response time and the second would be the lack of segregation.

The former is more of an internal issue beyond the scope of this report. For the latter, there are a few simple recommendations for WildAid in which it can further improve its information organisation, such as hashtag categorisation.

Since its current strategy has been highly effective, I felt that I would be able to add more value to WildAid by coming up with recommendations that are applicable to their general social media strategy, so that any future campaign they launch in the future will be even more effective and see greater success.

Conclusion

WildAid’s social media strategy has vastly improved in the short time this report had the privilege of following it.

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I sincerely hope that they continue with the positive changes their strategy has seen with this campaign, and I look forward to their next campaign in the future! 🙂

 

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