Best Practices for a Social Network-based Carbon Tax Campaign

Author: T. Todd Elvins
7 October 2014
Copyright (c) 2014 T Todd Elvins

We’ve already analyzed the 2014 ice bucket phenomena so let’s step into the way back machine and dissect three 2013 nonprofit campaigns that went viral in social media and consider the campaign characteristics that appealed to viewers’ psychies.

In 2013, the three campaigns below generated massive awareness and often donations for the non-profits.  While the vast majority of online campaigns generate a donation trickle, these campaigns magically sparked viewers to take action and/or donate, and forward the campaign media to their friends and family.  Certainly no campaign for a carbon tax, or probably for global warming in general, has generated this amount of attention in social media.

  1. Water is Life  repurposed the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems.  In a video, third world people complain about their (non-existent) first world problems.  It takes the word ‘irony’ to a whole new level. The result is simultaneously poignant and uplifting.  Six million views on youtube.
  2. UNICEF polio vaccine  directly and boldly called out their social media followers. “Hey, a ‘like’  on facebook does not help us to vaccinate children.  So donate.”  For four euros, we can vaccinate 12 children, and maybe save their lives.  In several videos and images.
  3. American Red Cross took part in National Preparedness Month, jumping in on the hashtag #NPM13. The Red Cross helps with disaster relief and emergencies, so it was a good match and raised awareness with thousands of people in social media.  In one funny graphic, there are twelve items, each marked as either useful, or not useful in an emergency.  Got nunchuks?

Let’s enumerate the main characteristics of the three campaigns.

Water is Life

Unicef Polio Vaccine

Red Cross
Emergency preparedness

Irony

X

X

Funny

X

X

Empathetic/ sympathetic/
poignant

X

X

Startling

X

X

Thought provoking

X

X

X

Sensible

X

X

X

Cost effective

X

X

X

Depicts human victims

X

X

X

Leverages another campaign

X

 

These three successful campaigns have many attributes in common.  Melding the commonalities, a successful carbon tax campaign should:  (1) feature victims that are people (not plants or ice caps or polar bears), (2) be funny and/or ironic, (3) be thought-provoking, and (4) be sensible and cost-effective.

1. Victims are people – Best choice is likely the next generation – today’s kids who will be parents grandparents, and voters when climate disruptions become catastrophic. The campaign pictures and/or videos should present a future with more frequent disasters, more severe weather, and offers less access to water, food, transportation, shelter, and clothing.

2. Funny and/or ironic – The victims and future in 1 above, must be presented in a humorous and/or ironic setting, scenario, or script.   The tag line might be, “a pollution tax paid to our children”.  What would a kid do with a stack of $5000 checks?  Go to college?  Buy an EV?  There was a funny tweet recently, “Experts say, ‘ebola is under control”.  “Public reaction: panic”.  “Experts say, ‘global warming will be catastrophic”, “Public reaction: ‘pass me some more coal'”.  This type of exchange expresses the right kind of humor and irony.

3. Thought provoking – The resulting image or video should include an analogy, metaphor, allegory, or paradox. 

4. Sensible and cost effective – The solution presented should be easy to grasp, be immediately logical and satisfying, and be obviously affordable. “Economists agree that a carbon fee with 100% refund is the cheapest, simplest, fastest, and by far, most effective way to reduce green house gas emissions. Tell your members of Congress”.

 

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