Alice More O’Ferrall is Social Media Manager at the World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF-UK), the UK branch of the global organisation for wildlife conservation and endangered species. She talks to Figaro Digital about the brand’s recent campaigns on social media, and the challenges of finding innovative ways to inspire action from the digital generation
What does an average day look like as Social Media Manager at WWF-UK?
An average day? I’m sure most social media professionals will agree there’s no such thing! With trends constantly changing, new platforms regularly created and additional features frequently introduced, it’s a varied and exciting role.
My days generally consist of a mixture of research, strategy development, scheduling and most of all inspiring action. I begin by scanning the media for stories that will resonate with our supporters to inform, engage and, hopefully, entertain on the subjects we’re passionate about—climate change, wildlife, rivers, forests, oceans and sustainable living. I’ll then review the content for the day across all our channels and catch up with colleagues from our media, online and supporter care teams to ensure we are aware of any key issues arising that day. The rest of the day is often spent on forward planning, monitoring trends, analysing results and testing content. It’s usually very busy and very rewarding.
If you could sum up WWF-UK’s social media objective in one sentence, what would it be?
To inspire and activate a mass of people to take action for our planet.
WWF-UK promotes content across multiple social platforms. Which ones work best for you and why?
Like most organisations, there’s not one social platform that meets all of our needs. We find that Facebook converts really well for people taking action by donating, signing a petition, taking on a Team Panda endurance challenge and engaging with our content. Twitter is all about connecting with the real world—influencing and reaching out to people to raise awareness of the work we do. We’re just starting out on Instagram and aspire to be like NatGeo or Jamie Oliver, who we really admire on this channel. Our Pinterest account followers are a fabulous community and we are working on plans to improve our two-way conversations.
Can you tell us a little bit about the recent #EndangeredEmoji Twitter campaign? How did the idea come about and what impact did you see?
We’re always searching for new and exciting ways to engage with people so we’re really proud of #EndangeredEmoji. People often ask how they can make a difference in their everyday life so we wanted to tap into something people already do. Emoji are becoming more popular every day since they were integrated into Twitter in April 2014, and have been used over 202 million times on the social platform.
Seventeen characters in the emoji alphabet represent endangered species, so seeking to translate the popularity of these characters into vital funds seemed like a great idea and so far we’re really pleased with the reaction.
#EndangeredEmoji is what we call a network wide campaign, so our colleagues around the world are sharing the campaign with their followers on Twitter, helping to inspire thousands of people to get involved. Personally I love the joy it seems to bring to people by making it so simple to make a difference.
A lot of content on WWF-UK’s social accounts comes from users posting photos as they take part in campaigns or fundraisers (such as the recent Wear it Wild day). How does user-generated content fit into your overall marketing mix?
One of my favourite things about social media is how easy it is to interact with our supporters and see how they interpret our campaigns. At WWF-UK user-generated activity is usually campaign specific and peaks during events like Wear it Wild or Earth Hour. Generally, the majority of our content comes from our network offices out in the field and the vast knowledge and experience of our WWF experts.
Having said that, user-generated content was crucial for Wear it Wild. Our supporters were so enthusiastic about showing their wild side to help protect precious species that our streams were filled with their animal print creations. The campaign worked because it was irresistibly shareable. We saw people connecting with Wear it Wild both on and offline, and so many people initiated sharing their own content—it wasn’t all about us pushing out our message. Our supporters helped #WearItWild reach over 80 million timelines and this amplification took the campaign to the next level by inspiring people outside of the UK to take part in the event. I can’t wait to do it again next June.
If you had to pick one, what’s been your best social media campaign for WWF-UK?
Our campaign to #SaveForests is my current favourite. The campaign aims to galvanise support online to influence decision makers to close loopholes in the law that allow illegally and unsustainably sourced wood to enter the UK. Using a really strong social strategy in conjunction with other digital marketing tools, we’ve had the biggest ever response to a petition in the history of WWF-UK!
We found that sharing shocking statistics worked really well—for example, one of our most successful posts highlighted that there’s only 70 Amur leopards left in the wild, which showed the urgent need to #SaveForests to protect their habitat. The campaign also utilised photo content to convey a powerful visual message, which helped develop a strong brand identity.
Occurrences like the recent #PlasticBagChallenge present an unexpected challenge on social media by trying to undermine the work of the organisation. How do you deal with instances like this?
At WWF-UK, we’re really proud of how quickly and responsibly we act on issues. As a scientific organisation we need to ensure that everything we share is factually accurate, credible and reflects our brand. Therefore, we plan our content wisely, hold regular internal briefings to flag any contentious issues and prepare Q&As on all areas of our work—as well as operating out of hours social cover. However, it’s impossible to be prepared for everything and sometimes unexpected issues can arise.
The #PlasticBagChallenge was brought to our attention very speedily and we moved quickly to distance ourselves from it. [Anonymous users on 4chan posed as WWF and challenged followers to hold a plastic bag over their head and breathe for five minutes to raise awareness of the environmental dangers of plastic bags.] We drafted a reactive statement which we shared with our network offices, the media and across our social networks. Whenever we experience one of these challenges, our loyal supporters will regularly act on our behalf to protect the organisation and stop rumours spreading, and this reminds me of the amazing community we’ve got.
What are some of the other challenges for you and WWF-UK across social media?
We’ve seen fantastic growth across our social media channels—over 500 per cent in two years, which equates to over a million followers. The challenge now is ensuring we’re really connecting with our audience, listening to their needs and influencing decisions and actions at the right level so people feel they are making a difference. It’s too easy to get shut off from the real world when you’re active in the digital world. We play out our lives through our digital connections, so being real and sociable is central to all we do. This does take time, however we feel it’s worth the investment.
Where do you find inspiration in the field of digital marketing/media? Are there any writers/thinkers/speakers that you particularly favour?
Working in social media, I find constant inspiration from all sorts of places. One recently launched website, the-pool.com, really speaks to my demographic. The creators, Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne, package the content into time-sized chunks so you can choose how much time you have to spend on an article. The recent Social Media World Forum this June in London saw a wide range of quality speakers. In particular I was impressed by Will McInnes from Brandwatch, who spoke about social data and how important social listening is in order to engage with your audience.
Which other brands do you admire for their marketing strategies and why?
I loved the recent campaign by WaterAid called ‘If men had periods’. They created three short films, which were very clever and managed to balance a light and humorous touch whilst still communicating the serious message behind the campaign. If you haven’t experienced Honda’s ‘The Other Side’, which was built in YouTube, it’s a must see. This short film shows how brands can cut through the noise using the power of digital. Watch and hit the ‘R’ key. http://www.hondatheotherside.com
I also found the exchange between Gregg’s and Google interesting to watch. When the Gregg’s logo was digitally tampered with and displayed in the search, they contacted Google on Twitter with amusing results. It’s so hard to get these things right when the world is watching, and this played out really well.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about WWF-UK’s digital marketing strategy?
We love the new auto play video feature in Facebook and have seen huge engagement from our audience when posting camera trap footage of leopards and tigers in their natural habitat. We were also very excited to be the first charity to use Periscope! It was the perfect way to share the energy and excitement of the Brighton marathon with our followers who couldn’t join us on the day. We’re proud of our growth to date and will remain agile and connected as the world of social media and digital marketing continues to develop and change.
The thing I always tell my colleagues here is that social media is a new(ish) way to do an old thing: communicate. That’s what we love doing and will continue to do with our social and digital strategy at WWF-UK.
Interview by Estelle Hakner
You can follow Alice on Twitter @alicemof