Trashtag Challenge Sets Bar High for Viral Social Media Trends

Viral trends come and go quickly on social media. Their shelf lives are short because most lack the staying power to keep a goal, dream or idea alive. Planking, the Mannequin Challenge, and the Harlem Shake are a few that come to mind, but sadly each fizzled out to be replaced by a new flavor of the week. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took off in 2014 and is another viral sensation that was hugely popular and successful. It helped raise awareness and donations to support the ALS community, with more than 17 million people uploading their challenge videos to Facebook.

The latest trend breaking the internet is the Trashtag Challenge, which first hit Facebook in early March and has spread like wildfire over the past month. The original post is below. The challenge is captivating people all over the world and inspiring the masses to clean up their communities and share photos of cleanup efforts across social media.

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While other online trends lose steam in a few weeks or months, the Trashtag Challenge is still going strong with no signs of slowing. I see daily high traffic posts on Reddit showing people participating in the challenge. This post hit the front page a few days ago and has over 100,000 upvotes with a lot of discussion and engagement. It’s encouraging to see because the challenge is only a month in and social media is still buzzing about it. Attention spans are short online. If the cause is important enough, people will do all they can to keep it growing and thriving.

This social media movement is remarkably different from others we’ve seen in recent years. It involves a topic of universal importance. The environment and its long term health is a shared concern for all. Combine this with social media and there’s power in numbers to cause widespread changes in sentiment and behavior. If the challenge helps raise awareness and encourages people to get involved, that alone is a worthy accomplishment.

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“As promised, just finished our 2nd #trashtag challenge. Every little action can have a huge impact, don’t let this challenge die!” – u/goitegi via Reddit

The success of this challenge is also tied to our personal needs to feel admired, appreciated and recognized on social media. People care about the environment, but they also don’t want to see their efforts go unnoticed. It feels good to share something positive that you’re doing, even something as small as collecting a few bags of trash in your neighborhood. One simple post created a ripple effect that has reached communities around the globe. It doesn’t matter what country you live in or what your beliefs are. This call to action is one we can all get behind.

Another important point is people sometimes don’t want to put in a ton of effort or make big commitments. We lead busy lives. It’s better to set low expectations and let people gauge their own involvement. If we can donate money online or share a post promoting a cause we support, that might be the extent of activism for most. The Trashtag Challenge is so incredibly easy and effortless to participate in. Anyone with a phone, internet connection and a little spare time can pick up trash near their home, school or workplace and share photos with a hashtag. Devote the time you want, when you want for any reason at all. As long as you’re involved it makes no difference.

The Trashtag Challenge has the potential to remain relevant on social media for years to come. It breaks the mold of your typical viral social media trend. There’s a strong desire to help the environment, people are motivated from seeing content shared by others and there’s an immediacy to this issue that is palpable. It’s been a continuous cycle of optimism and activism made possible by social networks and their unique ability to connect people and ideas on this beautiful planet we all share.

 

 

 

 

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Brands Need a Plan for Facebook Live

As any public relations professional will tell you, strategy, calculation and precision are ingredients guiding every decision that is made during a communications campaign. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals are set, objectives are established and tactics are identified to show how these goals and objectives will be accomplished throughout the duration of the campaign. A well established communications plan will help guide your efforts throughout the campaign, and a similar plan will also help achieve success using Facebook Live, the social media giant’s live streaming video feature. Facebook Live is now available to all Facebook users, pages and brands, and it’s important for social media coordinators and managers to develop a “Standard Operating Procedure” to help your organization remain consistent, efficient and prepared as you begin using Facebook Live to promote your brand.

The FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has been exploring Facebook Live and discussing its potential benefits for promoting fish and wildlife research throughout the state of Florida. As the social media coordinator for the institute, I led efforts to create a framework for Facebook Live as it relates to the overall social media strategy for our brand. Over the past two years we’ve implemented more video into our content plan, and live video offers another exciting avenue to engage our audience in unique and interesting ways. To help other organizations that are making the leap into live video, I’ve included our new communication plan specific to Facebook Live. Instead of going in with guns blazing, we’re building a road map to help us effectively use Facebook Live as a vital brand building tool for years to come.

A Panther Traveled the World

This is no ordinary Florida panther. It traveled the world in less than a week, but how? It has a limited home range (South/Central Florida), can’t swim across the world’s major oceans and could never accomplish such a feat. What’s the catch? Well, its journey began on social media. For being such an elusive animal, it could not escape the spotlight when it visited the porch of Phil Hendra’s father, who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. This incredible photo was taken, we shared the story on our Facebook page and the rest is internet history.

I first encountered this photo on Facebook in late March, and there was misinformation spreading across social media concerning where the panther was sighted. The story had legs by the time I got to it, and over 2,000 people had already shared a Facebook post with incorrect sighting information. I had to be proactive at this moment or we would quickly lose our ability to control the message and release correct sighting information on behalf of the agency. I contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) panther biologists, who confirmed the sighting location to be in Fort Myers and not in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties as some local news outlets had reported. Our biologists put me in contact with Phil Hendra, the man who saw the panther on his father’s porch and took the special photo. Mr. Hendra gave me permission to share his image on our Facebook page, and he also provided more details about the sighting and talked about his experience at great length. Everything fell into place that day, and I spent the rest of the afternoon fact checking, gathering additional information and obtaining quotes to include in my draft. I was inspired after hearing about Phil’s experience with our state animal, and I knew I had an obligation to share his “once in a lifetime” encounter with the world. Little did I know, this porch panther from Southwest Florida would make it halfway across the globe in a matter of hours.

Stories like this only come around so often, but I couldn’t let my excitement cloud my judgment. There were potential issues that needed to be addressed before deciding to go public. Will there be public safety concerns among local residents once they find out a panther is roaming their neighborhood? Does this photo highlight a failure of the FWC to properly manage this species in the first place? Will this content encourage people to actively seek out the panther and try to harm it?  I had my doubts about moving forward with the story, but the pros outweighed the cons in my eyes. It brought national attention to an endangered species that desperately needed it. It also sparked an important discussion about habitat loss, which caused near extinction of the species years ago and continues to be a problem today. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before we completely wipe out the only remaining habitat the Florida panther has left. Human-panther encounters are a direct result of this habitat loss, and the image had an impact that was hard to even measure. Thousands of users made jokes and responded to the photo in a humorous manner, but many others realized the severity of the situation and felt compelled to share this story.

As with any trending or viral story on social media, it left quicker than it arrived. Local, state and national news outlets covered the story when it broke. It was an eye-catching image which immediately grabbed your attention. It undoubtedly became the symbol of a larger issue that may be too late to fix. It’s any social media manager’s dream to receive as much press and attention as we did during that time, and our brand reaped the benefits as a result. If you have a great story to tell and your heart and mind are fully behind it, take a chance and see what happens.

Obama Embraced Social Media. It Won Him Two Presidencies.

My relationship with Obama can be described as a honeymoon period that never ended. I admired this man since my freshman year of college in 2008. I didn’t follow politics or listen to NPR. I didn’t know who he was until his presidential run. But when I first heard him speak, he had that swagger that was hard to ignore.

His communications campaign and use of social media captivated me beyond belief and motivated me to pursue a career in public relations. It had a profound impact on my life and career. It also forever changed politics in the digital age.

It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated and strategic communications strategy targeting young, educated students on the platforms they used most. It ultimately won him the 2008 election and helped build a larger online community that helped him win a second election in 2012. Social media outreach also allowed the Obama campaign to collect important data on his audience and use that data to create content and strengthen the campaign as it gained momentum. Volunteers signed up to help with campaigning, followers gave up their personal information for tickets to rallies and other events. Politicians worked hard to get this kind of information from voters. Obama got it with little to no effort, but his supporters didn’t care. They were a part of something big, a blue wave that reached every corner of the internet.

It helped that Obama was the first presidential candidate who was not a baby boomer. He was young, charismatic and open to new technologies and ways to bolster his support online and in-person. Social media offered everything Obama and his team needed to reach constituents and engage with voters.

It also allowed him to speak to his followers directly without the need for traditional outlets like TV, radio and newspapers. He set the foundation for government communications campaigns and ushered in a new approach to campaigning online in the 21st century.

That 2008 campaign broke a lot of new ground on platforms that were not widely used when he ran his first presidential campaign. That’s what makes this accomplishment even more special. With very little experience and knowledge of social media and how it could be used, Obama still realized its potential and poured a lot of time and resources into it. It’s what made Obama such a great leader as our president and a visionary in the social space.