During the summer of 2009, WWF launched a one-of-a-kind social media campaign encouraging world leaders to address the problematic issue of climate change. While the campaign’s presence spread via viral communication, the campaign itself did not involve blogging, networking sites or fancy social media kits, but online gaming. David Cole, the online outreach manager at WWF International explains the importance of this social media approach:

“We’re still learning how to use social media but it’s an important channel for spreading the message and having a conversation. It’s also a great way to reach out to people who aren’t necessarily WWF supporters or environmentalists.”

3696258372_75d99fa0f2Titled “Face the G8,” the interactive game aims at encouraging world leaders to make wise environmental decisions regarding climate change, and how those policies can go hand-in-hand with economic recovery. The game was created in anticipation of the July 8th G8 Summit, which unites the leaders of the world’s eight richest and most powerful countries—France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Canada. The leaders gathered in L’Aquila, Italy in order to help low developing countries adapt to the climate change, as well as to commit to sustaining the global temperature rise below two degrees celsius. Any temperature rise higher than that could permanently endanger the future of planet Earth.

The game works in that the player assumes a role as one of the G8 members, making decisions and proposals on climate change. Addressing questions like “What you do if you a member of the G8?” and “Would you choose the right policies that lead us to an environmentally sustainable future, or make the same old empty promises and continue with business as usual?” the player can utilize its many interactive elements to respond to pressing situations. One of the elements includes creating campaign posters. The posters are then uploaded onto Flickr, which are then used by WWF as visual petitions or as advertising. At the end of the game, the player’s success as a leader is evaluated through a personalized video, which can be linked to social network like Facebook and Twitter.

As for the summit held on July 8, the G8 leaders agreed to limit global temperatures to two degrees. They are still working on plans to aid poor countries towards low-carbon development and to decrease emissions in the future.

mashable-banner-21On August 29, Mashable, an online social media blog, awarded $35,000 to four non-profit organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, LIVESTRONG, Oxfam America, and World Wildlife Fund. These organizations were chosen for their noteworthy initiatives within the online community, and recognized at Mashable’s first Social Good Conference. The conference, held in New York City, was part of a summer long campaign titled Summer of Social Good. The campaign is the first of its kind—large-scale and online, where funds were raised strictly through social media efforts. Nearly 400 guests attended the event in support of the organizations and their social media efforts.

The conference, sponsored by MailChimp and Zappos, was aimed at highlighting the above charities, along with guest speakers discussing the topic of “Social media for Social Good.” Presenters from WWF, notable non-profit bloggers and social media coaches, as well as Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg, stressed the importance of social media tools in forming those important online relationships, ultimately yielding social activism.

Beth Kanter, non-profit blogger and social media coach, summed up the dynamics of social media in three simple Rs, as seen on DigiDaily.com:

Relationships: Use social media to build relationships with supporters and other organizations interested in the same causes.

Rewards: Make your supporters feel special by thanking them for their support. This could be done through invites to special events or starting up discussions with users.

Reciprocity: Help others succeed. If someone helps, return the favor.

Organizations that follow the rules of the three Rs are more likely to attract and maintain a following of evangelists, or supporters that are enthusiastic about taking action on behalf of the cause. The opposite of evangelists? Slacktivists –those who support the organization, but don’t take action. WWF has certainly attracted their share of evangelists with over 17,000 online subscribers dedicated to posting comments and content onto the WWF Facebook fan page, as well as raising over $70,000 through its 19,000 eBay auctions.

And WWF is not alone. Approximately 89% of non-profit organizations are currently active within the online community, and using those social media tools. According to research performed by Case Foundation, this statistic is much higher than the beast that is Fortune 500 companies.

Zuckerberg offered essential guidelines and tips for organizations looking to establish a prominent reputation within the Facebook realm. He advises using fan pages (versus group pages), creating a unique personality among your pages, incorporating audio and video, tagging liberally, and incorporating Facebook into your events.

WWF followed through.

On March 28, WWF united nearly one billion people worldwide to participate in Earth Hour 2009. This annual event, held at 8:30 pm, encourages bloggers, podcasters, mobile users, and online social networkers to turn their lights off for one hour in an effort to take action against climate change. And it worked. An estimated 80 million Americans participated, encompassing 4,100 cities, 87 countries, and all seven continents around the world. How did WWF manage to do accomplish such a global achievement? Social media, and its undeniable power to spread messages at the speed of..light.

“Social media has proved it can be a powerful force for driving change, but when the stakes are as high as they have ever been, we really need the support of the online community for Earth Hour this year,” said Earth Hour Executive Director Andy Ridley in March 2009.

Earth Hour relied significantly on the social media community to help get the word out on the importance of tackling climate change. Writing blogs, producing podcasts, creating and posting video, embedding codes to Earth Hour videos, and downloading and sharing event web banners, online badges, and wallpapers, were all methods used within the online community. Even more so, Earth Hour had established itself with more than 50 profiles on networks like Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter.

According to a poll conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, 30% of U.S. adults participated in the lights-off event in more than 300 cities, stretching from Los Angles to Washington D.C. Prestigious landmarks including the Empire State Building, Great Pyramids of Giza, St. Peter’s Basilica, London’s House of Parliament, and the Parthenon went dark for one hour.

Furthermore, 85% of Americans polled agreed that climate change is not to be ignored and an issue that must be addressed immediately. 80 million of them went dark in their votes for action. WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts explains:

“The American people have sent a clear mandate to our nation’s decision-makers: they want action on climate change. From coast-to-coast, more than 300 cities went dark as citizens, businesses, communities, and state governments, turned out the lights to take a stand on this defining issue of our time.”

According to EarthHour.org, the campaign generated a new event mention every seven seconds on the web, 230,000 friends and followers, and a new video view every 20 seconds.

By targeting and localizing networking sites and social communities in every country, WWF was able to unite an entire globe for one hour. JJ Projects and iJumpTV explain how social media played such a success in the 2009 event.

Climate change is one of WWF’s highest priorities in the wide realm of environmental conservation initiatives. Through smaller outlets like their “What a Difference a Day Makes” event on Twitter, users around the world can share the simple changes their making in their lives to reduce the carbon footprint. However, WWF takes it an even higher level. On their site, WWF makes it easy for everyday individuals like us to make a difference using what we know best—social media.

WWFImgFullitem13938“Climate—Act for our Future” is a social media tool kit created by WWF, targeting and utilizing the most effective outlets for creating change. They make it so simple to use, even making specific suggestions for postings on Facebook and MySpace pages. Furthermore, a list of senators for each state is easily accessible, urging tool kit users to send messages in support of the climate bill. WWF makes it simpler by providing a list of Twitter hash tags used by supporters of climate change legislations, as well as opponents:

Twitter Hash Tags

Supporters of climate change legislation generally use these:

  • #climate: General climate conversation
  • #climatebill: Specific discussion about the legislation
  • #ACES: Policy focused. Frequently used by environmental groups
  • #CEJAPA: Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act
  • #jobsact: Specific discussion about the legislation

While opponents of climate change legislation generally use these:

  • #capandtax: The main tag used by the bill’s opponents.
  • #afp: Stands for Americans for Prosperity, the group lobbying hard against both health care reforms and climate bills.
  • #tcot: Used by the most extreme opponent

Still confused about what to post on your Twitter account? The toolkit provides an ample list of facts and issues for users to link to their pages. Many of the “facts” include calling senators and urging their support on specific issues, directing them to links, videos, contacts, and legislation bills. All users have to do is paste a link into their pages – that simple.

The next step is telling friends and family, urging them to get involved. The toolkit even shows you how easy it is, providing links to the top bookmarking sites, blogs and social networks, making it that much simpler for users to spread the word. Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Delicious, Stumble Upon, LinkedIn, Digg, and Facebook, as well as several other sites, are all readily obtainable.

Access to recent blog entries, videos, and research relating to climate change is also at indispensable use. The President of WWF, Carter Roberts, explains the importance of climate change and what you can do to get involved:

This tool kit is truly a social media user’s haven, especially if his/her interest lies in an issue as important as climate change. What’s even better is that it can be used by environmentalists of all expertise—resourceful enough for the professional and simple enough for a fifth grader.

One of the most important actions environmentalists can take, no matter what their background or experience, is writing to their local governments and congressman. Dictated by the rules of snail mail, it can be a long process and these days, who really has the time to write out a letter, locate their government official, and find a stamp?! WWF, however, allows you to join efforts with thousands of other supporters online to petition for environmental issues affecting our world. No matter what state, country, or even continent you’re on, WWF Passport provides you the opportunity to join in on the cause. And WWF passport was created with the busy individual like you in mind. On-line campaigning is simple, quick, and most importantly, effective.

147657206_aafa99dbecSince their inception in 2000, WWF passport users have united to make significant changes for the environment via government officials. Just this past year, 13,000 WWF passport holders signed a petition banning to commercial fishing in marine parks across Hong Kong. And Hong Kong responded.Chief executive of the city, Mr. Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen, declared Hong Kong’s four marine parks fish-protected zones – that 2% of the region’s local waters! WWF hopes to continue its petitioning, eventually increasing that number to 10%. The marine ecosystem is presently suffering from overfishing and extreme pollution – through WWF Passport, we are now one step closer to its rescue. Other 2008 successes include a progressive proposal within Scotland’s bill for climate change, and new protective measures for Hector and Maui dolphins, authorized by government officials in New Zealand.

The WWF passport campaigns are initiated by WWF communicators and environmentalists around the world. Whenever a call to action is needed, those individuals contact a team at WWF International. From there, WWF International manages and creates the campaigns, sends e-mail alerts, actively communicates with the passport holders, and finds new ways to improve efforts. Since its creation, over 70,000 supporters have joined, coming together to speak out on issues, get their voices heard, and yield change. Without a mass effort, vital programs and laws protecting ecosystems, endangered species, and environments around the world, are at risk of being ignored.

Send an email to decision makers, sign a mass petition, show your support for conservation staff on location, or even buy FSC-certified wood – the opportunities for change are endless. Travel and save the world at once, all from the comforts of home. Your voice is waiting to be heard.

In an attempt to promote change and awareness in global climate change, WWF came up with a very controversial idea which would involve playing off of the 9/11 tragedy. Developed initially by DDB Brazil, an advertising agency through which WWF collaborated, the 9/11 spin was meant solely as a concept. However, it would later be ran as both a print and commercial ad in Brazilian press – an ethical and monumental mistake made by WWF

911tsunami-largeThe ad aims at highlighting the shocking number of lives lost during the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The trick? Compare it to lives lost on 9/11 in New York City, claiming that the natural disaster killed 100 times more people than the man-made attack on the United States. Headlined “The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Conserve it,” the ad depicts dozens of commercial planes flying toward New York City skyscrapers. The end result? Though not literally shown, the mental images logically formed in the minds of viewers are shocking enough to set WWF’s ethical reputation on fire. WWF and DDB Brazil would later admit that the press campaign comparing lives lost in 9/11 and the Tsunami “should never have been made.”

The joint statement made by both companies admitting their mistake claimed, “It was created and approved in late 2008, mistakenly, and was solely the result of lack of experience on the part of a few professionals from both parties involved.”

In an attempt to address their mistakes and apologize to the public, WWF looked to none other than social media. WWF CEO, Carter Roberts, issued a video-taped statement acknowledging their lack of judgement, poor decisions that led to the publication of the ad, and what they plan to do to repair the damage. Roberts acknowledged:

“We deeply regret that the information we provided, while given in good faith, may not have been completely accurate. We stand by our earlier statements that the ad was utterly inappropriate and should never have seen the light of day. It does not in any way reflect the thoughts and feelings of the people of World Wildlife Fund. Again, WWF-US strongly condemns this ad and offers our sincere and heartfelt apologies.”

In doing so, WWF attempts to preserve its trust and relationships with the public, and admit that the publication of these ads were in bad taste and passed under lackluster authority. While it may not heal all the offenses the ads caused, WWF made a smart move: they remained transparent and communicative with audiences. Similar to the JetBlue crises, both organizations sought repair and forgiveness through broadcasted apologies explaining their actions and the changes being made that would certify those issues would never arise again. 

Providing an effective tool for creating relationships, social media proves that it is also essential for repairing relationships as well. 

* Due to the sensitive nature of the ad, I left it up to readers as to whether or not they wanted to view the video ad and placed the link at the end of the post.

9/11 Commercial


A post on Green Market recently reported on a new worldwide social media movement. On Wednesday September 29, 2009, WWF and Twitter joined forces to host a global online event. Deemed “What a Difference a Day Makes,” it encourages users to share and exchange the ways in which they make our world a better, more sustainable environment. All around the world, individuals are making conscious efforts to recycle, reuse, conserve, and make more intelligent buying decisions. Unfortunately, one person who does all of the above may feel like a lone activist in our big world, especially after seeing a coworker leave his lights on during lunch, or witnessing a passerby tossing his plastic Coke bottle into the trash. But this event encourages other “going green” enthusiasts that they are not alone! Using public transportation, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, even writing your congressman on pressing issues – You name it, people everywhere, whether you know it or not, are adopting new habits to make a difference. Twitter’s event seeks to show that as a whole, we really do care about our environment.

The event mirrors that of an Earth Day event, which is celebrated on March 28. This involved asking participants to share their acts of “going green” online, logging nearly ONE BILLION acts on just that one day. Earth Hour, celebrated on March 22, is also driven by the same environmental aims, asking people to switch off their electricity for one hour at 8:30 PM. According to Green Market, online events like the ones mentioned above prove that social media can be a “humanizing force.” With an accessibility to over millions of people any day and at any time, social media tools provide the perfect outlets for spreading the Green message. That instant and constant communication makes the endeavor possible worldwide, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Want to share with the world how you go green? Green Market shows you how. Just follow their simple directions below:

To participate in the WWF campaign post a message to Twitter with the tag #wwf24 about the sustainable things you do in your day, and the organizers will add you to the map.


Harbor Seal, CA; Flickr WWF Travel

Harbor Seal, CA; Flickr WWF Travel


For some, it can be an awry decision to donate time and money to a cause you haven’t experienced first hand. Many may ask themselves, is my donation really going to save the polar bear species? Or, is that biosphere reserve ever going to see my $20? Fortunately, with WWF, you can see for yourself. With over dozens of trips offered each year, supporters are given the opportunity to travel to countries all over the globe – Africa, Asian, India, Latin America, North America, Caribbean, the Polar Regions, and South Pacific – offering a specific focus for each trip. Snorkel the Rapa Ampat Archipelago, polar bear watch in Churchill, Manitoba, and search for gorilla families in the jungles of Rwanda Tanzania – the possibilities are endless.

WWF features a travel page that offers tour descriptions, dates, and itineraries, and also lets users filter trips by country, type (land-based, ship-based, snorkeling, family tours, and action adventures), and types of wildlife travelers may be interested in observing. Furthermore, the page links to the WWF travel blog featuring interviews with environmental and scientific experts, updated photos and video from bloggers world-wide, and testimonials from past WWF travelers.

And the page doesn’t end there. Travel tips, a downloadable newsletter and calendar, and a Flickr WWF photo site are also available at the reader’s indispensable use. Easy access to the WWF Facebook and Twitter pages are also a click away. There’s no need for donors to be wary of where their money is going to now that there’s social media – the proof is at your fingertips, and even more so, right before your eyes.

Gary Ellis photography

Gary Ellis photography

Prior to social media, the WWF had to rely on traditional, and slower, methods of spreading their message. Now with an online community, users can join the movement from the comforts of home or office. Snail mail, which was the initial process of receiving donations and feedback, is now replaced with the essential tools of social media. For example, users can be active via an advocacy network, donate money, subscribe to RSS feeds, stay updated through WWF photos and video, and interact with other environmentalists through chats and discussions. A wife and mother of two can now easily discuss the “green” efforts she’s making at home in Harrisonburg, VA with a biologist continents away.

Social media is probably the best thing that’s happened to WWF. Saving the world requires a joint effort around the world, and now people from all over can finally unite and take those steps towards change. And according to the video below, the online community connects us with the animals and causes we are fighting for.

Even more so, WWF Canada was currently searching to fill a newly initiated position within the organization – Social Media Specialist. Not only could this be our own jobs for tomorrow, but who knows how great the SM Specialist will expand the global community and introduce even more careers that have yet to be discovered. More people, no matter from home or within the WWF organization, can only yield one result, and that is a healthier, more thriving environment.

These are just a few of the ways WWF is adopting social media. I plan to explore more in-depth approaches in future posts.

S095167-Jaguar-AnimalEyes-CloseupAs a non-profit organization, the World Wildlife Fund mainly relies on a pocket-sized budget and devoted world travelers to protect 19 high-priority locales, ranging from the Mesoamerican Reef to the Gulf of California. However, social media is providing new opportunities to initiate change right in the hearts of everyday people. Engagement and outreach via mediums like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter allows biologists to update on pressing environmental issues right from the field, interact with readers thousands of miles away, and respond to the issues that are most pressing for WWF supporters.

“These tools have provided us with the opportunity to engage supporters and reach new audiences in a way we have not ever been able to in the past,” said Claire Carlton, Social Media Manager for WWF. According to analysis by Mashable (a social media guide), these tools allow the organization to engage in two-way conservation with readers, receive instant feedback, and respond to that feedback. For example, a Facebook poll revealed that dolphins were ranked number one in regards to the “most appealing” marine animal. In response, WWF targeted those pollers and created gateways to informational reports on Mekong dolphins, a critically endangered species.

Even though most of us can’t jet-set across the world and help save an ecosystem with our own two hands, social media gives us the outlets to do it from home. And with each other. No matter how many miles may stand in between. Our world’s problems are our own (try saying that 10 times!), and it is depended on us to make those crucial efforts to a better, healthier Earth.

The first step? Assessing our own daily lives and making those small changes from within. From there, something as simple as turning our faucet off when brushing our teeth can evolve into preserving an entire coastal reef. So, how much does it cost to save the planet in time and money? Take a look for yourself…

“I see our web site as our home base, the blog as our podium and Twitter, YouTube, FlickrFlickr andLinkedInLinkedIn as our mega phone,” said Carlton. “Social media provides us with the opportunity to mobilize thousands more people in getting the message to world leaders that they must take action on climate change now so that we have a sustainable future for everyone.”

World Wildlife Fund

July 2020