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Facebook, Twitter, blogging, forums, and online networking are continuing to spread like wild fire throughout every aspect of our lives. This has made an astounding impact on the environmental campaigning world by linking like-minded groups and individuals across the globe that would have never even known existed until the world of social networking fell upon us. Social media’s input is evident on various levels, from international actions right the way through to bringing people together in person to deal with issues big and small.
International impacts – A major event that stirred up a social media cauldron was over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010. BP’s image initially suffered at the hands of a network of environmental organisations that collaborated and exploited the disaster throughout their social outlets. In a bid to further destroy BP’s image, their official Twitter feed became sabotaged by a more popular parody version, @BPGlobalPR, in which they were taunted with sarcastic comments on a regular basis. Further damage using Twitter was done with #oilspill becoming a trending topic in rapid response to the disaster. BP also saw a quick decline in Facebook fans, and its now ghost-like page simply presents several hate messages with “boycott BP” a popular phrase. This particular social media war has had economic consequences for BP.
Local impacts and benefits - Social media is not just a way to gang up on the bigger boys; it is also a way of bringing individuals together in person and in that sense can have a great local community impact. This is particularly evident with a UK based NGO, known as Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) who are an environmental campaign pressure group that have been going strong for over 20 years.
In 2010/11 SAS witnessed one of their most active years to date by launching a campaign titled ‘Motivocean.’ The project targeted 16-25 year olds, considered the hidden volunteering age group, in which they were encouraged to take part in environmental volunteering around their local area. SAS enticed participants to get involved in a very simple, yet effective way by advertising free surfing lessons for anyone in the age bracket that first took part in an educational beach clean.
With the aid of an entirely bespoke volunteering social media website volunteers could set up their own page, add details, interests, photos, videos and log volunteering hours, which allowed them to launch themselves into the environmental world and be known to the key organizations in the UK. This proved extremely beneficial for SAS as they recruited over 1,000 volunteers to take part across 20 events in the summer of 2010 and the same again in 2011.
With the help of social media, serious momentum can be built around organisations, events and its way of connecting to the public. It’s no secret that social media has opened up the internet to everybody, allowing anybody to interact, comment and voice their opinions. This includes activists, both new and old school, both large and small, from environmentalists to political; everybody can now get involved to some degree and make a difference.