3 Social Marketing Strategies Inspired by the World Wildlife Fund

photo via Southern Cross Galleries

I work for a technology-based company, but I own a cell phone only for emergencies. My Internet search history is full of sites about DIY solar power, electric car conversions and the veggies that grow best in zone 5. I raise fresh produce and chickens in my backyard. Chickens. And when I feel like a great big alien on my small urban farm, I turn to YouTube to remind myself there are plenty of others like me, all over the world.

This is the power of social media for me. The big blue marble becomes much smaller and friendlier when I find evidence of like-minded people. The chickens kept warm this winter with a solar furnace that Sven in Denmark showed me how to build. Thanks, Sven!

Social sharing enables organizations with a cause to start something, quite literally in their backyard and watch it grow, organically (pun intended), across the globe. It’s one key in the success story of WWF’s Earth Hour, the world’s largest environmental campaign, and how it grew from an idea in Sydney, Australia to a worldwide participatory event. Here are three marketing strategies (four, if you count karma as a strategy) that are working for Earth Hour, coming again on March 31, 2012.

1. Partner with Someone

Even the big guys need help. Already established as the world’s leading conservation organization, WWF wanted to take the issue of climate change mainstream. WWF Australia went to Leo Burnett Sydney for ideas and help engaging Sydney residents. Together they took the concept of Earth Hour to Fairfax Media, who agreed to back it.

2. Campaign on Hope, Not Fear

Then campaign some more. By appealing to individuals’ sense of personal responsibility, Earth Hour evolved from the simple idea of flicking off the lights to save energy. An act so small that each and every individual person can do, and when done together has a huge impact. That message of hope quickly expanded to one of sustainability. Each year, Earth Hour encourages people to participate beyond the hour. The 2012 “I Will If You Will” campaign is gaining even more support as individuals and organizations dare others to get involved. Earth Hour is one of three main 2012 projects of the Girl Scouts of the USA, “Girl Scouts forever green,” focused on impacting the environment. Evolve your message to keep gaining supporters.

3. Build a Community

Marketing for your cause takes a community effort and social media is the ideal tool to engage the masses. Earth Hour is using it to its greatest advantage, activating the global community. It’s working. The inaugural Earth Hour held in Sydney, Australia on March 31, 2007 had the participation of 2.2 million residents and 2,100 businesses. In 2011, more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries switched off the lights for Earth Hour. The message of Earth Hour is alive and well and growing, reaching even more countries and cities who have not participated before, thanks in no small part to the power of social sharing.

(3b) Join a Community

If you’re not ready to start up your own community, participate in an effort that’s already going on. Earth Hour equips people with downloadable how to guides, to encourage organization of groups and participation in their own communities. And 2012’s IWIYW allows for anyone, individuals or organizations, to say what you’re willing to do if others pledge to help. Dare anyone to accept your challenge, or accept the challenge of someone else.

4. Kismet Happens

Some call it karma—sometimes, outside forces align to help you out.

In 2006 at the same time WWF was ramping up Earth Hour, “An Inconvenient Truth” movie brought worldwide attention to the issue of climate change. The Stern Report was also released in 2006, bringing words of warning from an economist, not a scientist. The report sent a global warning about the economic costs of ignoring the threat of climate change. In 2009, 192 nations met in Copenhagen, Denmark for the UN Climate Change Conference, pushing global awareness of climate change to unprecedented heights.

Now in 2012, “The Lorax” movie (based on the Dr. Seuss book first published in 1971) is capturing the attention of more generations.

Go ahead. Start something. And remember what the Once-ler says: “It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become.”

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