Climate change social media campaign deemed a success

20th February 2015

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  • Adaptation ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Renewable


Stewart Deary

A government campaign to engage the public with climate change using Twitter generated far higher engagement than expected, according to analysis by Ipsos Mori.

The energy and climate department (Decc) led the campaign in the fortnight before the Lima international climate negotiations in December, which comprised a 10-day countdown during which a fact or figure about climate change was released each day to prompt discussion.

During the campaign, Decc hosted a “tweetathon” on one day. This involved intensive posting to the social media site using the hashtag #BackClimateAction. Each hour of the day was dedicated to a different topic.

Through the campaign, Decc hoped to re-engage the public with the issue and make the discussion relevant to people’s day-to-day lives, rather than focusing on the science or abstract concepts.

Over 16,000 people or organisations were involved over the course of the campaign, from 15-28 November, with 37,779 entries on social media, Ipsos Mori reports. On the day of the tweetathon, 15,299 entries were posted online, more than seven times as much as the general underlying daily conversation about climate change in the UK.

The nature of the discussion was overwhelmingly positive, with most of the posts aimed at sharing information to promote the case for taking action. Negative tweets underplaying the need for action or denying that climate change is due to human activity were low in number, the analysis found. However, that could be in part due to the positive bias of the hashtag, Ipos Mori concedes.

The most popular topics of discussion during the tweetathon were health, cities, food and water, energy and renewables, and business. An hour of the tweetathon dedicated to biodiversity saw discussions centre around particular species or woodlands, rather than using the term “biodiversity”, the analysis notes.

The campaign also had global reach, with 24% of posts originating in the US, 9% in Australia and 4% in Canada, Ipsos Mori reports.

Decc had pre-arranged engagement in the tweetathon with 111 organisations, including the British Medical Association and the Natural History Museum. Almost half of these contributed five or more times during the day.

However, others did little or nothing to engage with the campaign, prompting Ipos Mori to suggest that Decc identify a smaller but more engaged core of people and organisations for future campaigns.

The majority of people who contributed most to the discussion were not official partners, Ipos Mori says. However, tweets by official partners proved more influential than those by non-partners, prompting the polling organisation to suggest that getting partners on board is central to effectively communicating the message of a tweetathon.

Ipsos Mori also reports “pledging” activity by people posting entries online, which had not been prompted by the campaign. It suggested that future campaigns could set objectives around monitoring the number of people pledging action to move the discussion beyond passive support to concrete commitments to take action.

The analysis concludes: “It is clear that the campaign performed well against its thematic aims and engagement targets. However, the lack of comparative data makes it difficult to draw conclusions on where the campaign did particularly well, and the areas in which it could be improved further.

"Despite this, the research project has uncovered a number of ways for generating new types of insight that can help evaluate campaigns of this nature."

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