Arming a social media posse with a state-of-the-art engagement strategy

19 December 2017

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Three days leading in to the eighth Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), in Bonn, Germany on Dec. 19 and 20, around 50 people from different nationalities gathered for the digital media media bootcamp.

During the three-day extensive training, participants were equipped with a vast range of available social media tools and practical ways to use them throughout the GLF global event.

Bootcamp facilitator, Peter Casier, believes in the power of bringing people with a common cause to work together.

“We always want to provide an added value to our GLF partners and to youth interested in landscapes,” Casier said. “This is one of those opportunities. … it will be up to the participants to make this a success through their involvement, engagement, energy and inspiration.”

Participants from more than 30 countries with different backgrounds and professions joined the bootcamp. Most of them are involved in or are interested in issues related to landscapes.

“We want this to be an exciting, meaningful and fun experience for all, which they will remember for a long time,” he said. “We also want people to learn, both from the trainers, mentors but also from each other, and add value to the communications work they do, or might do.”

Yukie Hori, who leads the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) communications team, said that she has been using social media as a tool to reach out to people, but that she has had questions about how to formulate their messages to directly reach unique audience targets.

“We have been organizing many campaigns and competitions through social media, and we’ve always been surprised by the reaction, especially the young people around the world to participate,” she said.

Inspiring youth

Participants also include the 10 people selected in the GLF Youth Ambassador Program. The youth ambassadors are students or young professionals under the age of 35 who are interested, studying, or are working in agriculture, environment, or sustainable development issues and who are are eager to learn more about social media.

The Youth Ambassadors will partner with GLF for a year, working remotely and as volunteers. They will be given hands-on guidance and mentoring to set up or run actual social media outreach tools in different languages. During the forum they will get the chance to practice their new knowledge from the bootcamp.

“As a team, we also want the whole bootcamp group to actively report on the GLF Bonn event,” said Casier, who believes that the power of social media outreach is not just based on how the GLF communications team connects people, but also on how to use the extended network of people we are connected with, including bootcamp participants.

On the third day of the bootcamp, the Youth Ambassadors, assisted with the GLF online media team, planned out their activities for 2018.

A youth ambassador from Peru, Carla Madueño Florian, is a third-semester master’s student at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, studying global change ecology. She contributes to a couple of blogs — one on science for students in Peru, where she talks about sustainability issues in Peru and another one on global change ecology.

“Now I am rediscovering this tool for very specific goals. I think I have enough information to back home and apply to all the blogs I am administrating,” she said.

“I realized the power of communicating science through social media … science in a fun way, solutions-oriented. Not science alone because that’s boring,” Florian said.

“Bootcamps like these are unique opportunities for people with common interest, even though from different backgrounds, to connect and work together in a closely knit team, for a common goal,” Casier said.

The digital media bootcamp idea was formed at the RIO+20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, in spring of 2012, with a three-hour briefing before “Agriculture Day” at RIO+20. A year later at U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP)18 in Qatar, the boot camp ‘joined forces’ with “Forest Day” and the “Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day” in a one day training.

COP18 was also the birth of the “Global Landscapes Forum”, with its first actual GLF event in Warsaw, Poland, the following year in 2013. “That was the first time we used the “bootcamp” approach: 28 participants worked together for weeks prior to the actual bootcamp, to prepare the content and training,” Casier said.

“Mixing seasoned communications staff from GLF partners, together with youth, gives us the opportunity to cross-fertilize amongst people with a diverse background and interest.We want people to learn from the trainers and mentors, and from each other,” he said.

Getting right into it

Interaction between participants started about two weeks before the event. Participants started to communicate through a mailing list . Communication channels were further set up via WhatsApp and Slack, two social media platforms with different outreach potential.

Not all participants joining bootcamps are experienced in using social media. Some are quite savvy and use it regularly in their jobs or as a hobby. But they all have one thing in common: they are all eager to learn more about using social media more effectively. Some of them didn’t wait to engage in social media and started posting during the bootcamp using tags such as #DMB for the “digital media bootcamp” and two other hashtags that will be used throughout the GLF global event: #ThinkLandscape and #GLFBonn2017.

Across different platforms, besides introducing themselves and sharing their reason for joining, participants were asked to share topics they are interested to cover during the GLF.

“We also want the bootcamp participants to actively engage into the GLF Bonn online media outreach,” said Casier.

 

Getting deeper into it

“The matrix was visualizing what we were thinking but not really structuring, that I thought was really useful I will definitely use it for my work on social media strategy,” said Hori.

Patrick Sakyi, a participant from Ghana works for FarmVoz, an organisation assisting farmers. “The most important tip that I got was how to develop a social media strategy and then to able to measure how your content is being used. That was key for me,” he said, adding that other tips such as the importance of having a good title and rich description on YouTube postings are also key to getting higher number of views.

Sakyi said that he is eager to bring insights, experiences and challenges of rural farmers in Ghana through social media. “They know what they’re doing … now I am thinking of how can I get their perspectives directly using social media.”

On the second day, the sessions goes deeper into strategizing social media engagement. The team explored how to focus their strategy on the ‘who we are’-, ‘what we do’-, and ‘how we do it’-questions. From those fundamental questions, they can formulate an overarching message or purpose for their actions.

“I hope to learn more in the coming days,” Patrick said. “It will be a test for me to start reporting on the GLF, so I can start experimenting what I learn here before I go back to Ghana and use it on the farmers.”