DOUBLE TAP THAT
by
Sarah Lazarovic
Apr 15
How to Use Social Media to Spark a Climate Conversation

Talking about climate on social media can be like talking about climate in real life.

You’re that person at the party that everyone quietly steps away from, as they move to another group to focus on Fantasy Football picks or celebrity gossip, or just about anything else.

The good thing about bringing up climate on your socials is that you aren’t left standing alone by the punch bowl.

And with a little humor and spirit, you can communicate important climate ideas with greater success.

How we can all be social media influencers

The No. 1 rule of climate change communications is to talk climate.

Climate is so underrepresented in public discourse and news that when aliens comb the detritus of our civilization hundreds of years from now, they’ll marvel at the fact that we weren’t talking about climate all the time, given the state of our world.

Photo by Robin Worall on Unsplash
Your friends and family might never see any climate content, given their particular algorithms.

Doing your part on social media is a great way to help. Each piece of information you can share is valuable in a media landscape where your friends and family might never otherwise see any climate change articles, given their particular algorithms.

There’s the social proof factor, too.

The more you show people it’s okay to post real, meaningful thoughts and news about climate change, the more you normalize it, making others feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts. 

How to talk about climate change on social media

If you follow these three simple tips, you’ll avoid a lot of the pitfalls inherent to the fraught task of talking climate with your uncle on Facebook.

1. Share good content, and articulate why it’s good

By good, we mean credible information from reputable sources, such as reporting from respected news outlets and environmental organizations. Try The Guardian’s environmental journalism, and Bill McKibben’s climate-focused New Yorker newsletter as solid starting points.

Write about why you like a piece—by synthesizing content, you're providing valuable context for people.

Make sure the content is well-written, meaningful and thought-provoking.

Bonus points if there are compelling photos, art or design to help it shine. Pull out the most important facts or quotes when you share, because let’s be honest, most people won’t bother to click a link. Write about why you like the piece, too. By synthesizing the content, you’re providing valuable context for people.

Avoid jargon and polarizing terms. Most people don’t care about “just transitions” or “net zero.” They care about the health of their family and their quality of life. Whenever you can swap out insidery lingo for plain language, do it.

When you see others sharing good climate content, make sure to signal boost their efforts.

Often, people post earnest climate sentiments and get no response, causing them to...never share anything about climate again. So make sure to amplify, support and emoji it up when you see others posting climate change ideas.. 

2. Use stories as the way in

Climate change facts and stats will never win hearts and minds. Often, due to confirmation bias, they have the opposite effect.

So offering a first-person perspective is essential to sharing content that connects at an emotional level. Scientist Katharine Hayhoe, for instance, often grounds her stories in her upbringing as an evangelical Christian.

Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

Relatable stories anchor the ginormous issue of climate change in the personal.

If you can contextualize a specific piece of climate change news with your own anecdote, it’ll resonate with your audience more. Say you’re sharing a huge report about temperature changes that will wreak havoc on the trees in your city...and you’ve noticed some strange things happening to the tree on your front lawn. Talk about both. 

Also ask people to consider what’s happening around them. Do this in a way that’s open, fun and kind. And when things get a bit depressing, remember there’s a Parks and Rec GIF that can convey any possible emotion with profound precision and humor.

3. Make no judgments, ever

Everyone has that annoying friend who posts climate stuff (or other stuff) in a thinly veiled effort to promote their own world view or life choices.

There’s no right way to climate, and no right way to live. We’re all just doing what we can, in a system that makes it incredibly difficult to live sustainably. So articles that advocate having fewer children or being vegan or not driving as the only way to do it are just...not helpful. 

They’re also not always correct.

The narrative that we have to sacrifice everything and live in burlap sacks to stop climate change is a myth. Yes, the world needs to decarbonize at scale and speed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Uncle Jim has to give up his pick-up. Systemic change is a world where Uncle Jim may someday get an electric truck because the world has demanded decarbonization, and he still needs a big vehicle to haul stuff.

Individual change is extremely important, but be judicious in what you recommend.

Many people have neither the time nor the resources to devote to individual behavior change. This doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they’re busy, stretched and unsure of what to do.

That’s why the best climate content to share is the kind that’s not ideologically prescriptive.

That’s why the best climate content to share is the kind that’s not ideologically prescriptive.

Don’t tell people what they have to give up. Paint the (very possible!) positive vision of what the world will be like if we stop climate change: decreased pollution, reduced inequality, beautiful nature, walkable cities, more comfortable homes, accessible and healthy food, birds (politely) chirping outside.

The benefits of a sustainable planet are myriad.

Bonus tips: 

Be more funnier!

Photo by Dan Cook on Unsplash

Just the word climate can send people’s heads directly into the sand.

Use light, clear and fun language that shows talking about climate doesn’t need to be boring or scary. Yes, the situation is dire. But with positive tips and a bit of humor (even climate change memes), you can go a long way toward shifting the tone—and get people to stop hiding your posts. (Maybe.)

But what about deniers?

If you share good climate content with empathy and heart, it’ll help keep the deniers at bay. Wanting a world that is less wasteful or greener or safer is something just about anyone, can get behind. Things pretty much everyone hates: waste, pollution, the destruction of cute animals and pretty forests. Start there!

Game the algorithm

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

Social media favors posts that produce engagement—likes, loves, angry emoji, the frantic back and forth of commenters who don’t know each other but still know they hate each other. It’s a toxic stew that incites people to be their most emotional selves. And the content that doesn’t get this kind of engagement gets dropped out of sight.

Boost your engagement by alternating between crowd-pleasers (cute pics of your puppy kissing a hedgehog) and planet-pleasers (the latest UN report and what it means for all of us).

That’s disheartening if you’re more interested in talking about our rapidly closing window of opportunity to save humanity than, say, the latest political squabble.

But! You can hack the algorithm for purposeful planetary commentary by playing around with your content mix. Boost your engagement by alternating between crowd-pleasers (cute pics of your puppy kissing a hedgehog) and planet-pleasers (the latest UN report and what it means for all of us).

And don’t be afraid to directly ask people to engage with your climate posts, to keep them alive and seen.

Find your people

Enjoy yourself, and be real.

Posting about climate on your social networks may not make you the most popular person on the newsfeed, but if you share thoughtful ideas and news about what it means to be alive right now, you’ll find there are people who want to engage and learn, too.

P.S. Please like, share, retweet and regram this article...

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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada, RBC Ventures Inc., or its affiliates.

Sarah Lazarovic
Written By
Sarah Lazarovic

Sarah Lazarovic is a Toronto-based author and illustrator. She writes the undepressing climate newsletter Minimum Viable Planet.

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