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Social cause marketing to make scientific content more accessible

Climate content is often suppressed by social algorithms because it’s not exceptionally engaging. A cause as global as climate change should be widely distributed, however, most scientific research on the impact of climate change is published in academic journals, and not in more accessible content sources. The Estuary & Ocean Science Center (EOS) wanted to find a way to create a cause marketing campaign related to climate change and the impact on marine life easier to digest and inspire action from non-academic audiences. 

EOS at San Francisco State University is located in Central San Francisco Bay along a naturally deep water channel that hugs the shoreline just inside the Gold Gate Bridge. With access via a deepwater port, the Romberg Tiburon Campus is an ideal location for a science center focused on coastal and marine ecosystems. Deepwater port access is critical for marine science and education. In fact, no other higher education institution has a marine science laboratory located on the San Francisco Bay. The prime location is perfectly suited to address environmental justice confronting urban coastal regions. 

The mission of EOS is to build a scientific understanding of how humans can affect and mitigate the effects of climate change. EOS is well-known for its motto of “connecting science, society and the sea.” The organization’s fundraising efforts are centered around the science of climate change and how people’s choices make an impact on the marine environment. EOS tapped 48 West Agency to deliver a social cause marketing campaign to awareness about the impact of climate change on marine life. 

Social media can compel people to action, the Georgetown University CSIC and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide released a study noting (55%) of people who engaged with causes via social media have been inspired to take further action. Action can include donating money, participating in an event, volunteering, and more. With such an important mission we jumped on the opportunity to raise awareness, engage with their supporters and find creative ways to generate donations to the cause. 

After outlining the goals, we sought to find the right strategy and tools to create meaningful connections that would drive people to donate. We didn’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture, so our strategy included planning a social media calendar centered on the type of compelling content that would inspire people to take action. 

A social media calendar is one of the best ways to track and test strategies and messaging and see what sticks with the target audience. Planning out a social calendar months in advance, and scheduling posts, saved the small team the time of combing through trends and news stories every day. Calendars also help build consistency in brand voice and posting. We like to follow an 80/20 rule. 80% scheduled content, leaving 20% of capacity available to jump on a trending topic or user-generated content.  The EOS social media calendar was full of differentiated content and call to action, like problem statements, memes, surveys, infographics, videos, photos, and statistics.

Here are some things we learned along the journey:

Our job as marketers is to connect people to the problem

Making the science more accessible means finding a new way to get the information into the hands of potential donors and continue to educate audiences. Like any technical topic, the answer is more digestible content – something research organizations tend to lack. If you want to be perceived as an advocate of the cause, and you want your cause to help mitigate in a positive, measurable way, you have to be accessible without talking down to San Francisco State University cause marketingyour audience. Implementing easy to consume content makes it easier for more people to participate. One example, take a scientific report and write an easier-to-read blog synopsis for the non-scientific audience. Such efforts will go a long way in building a community of advocates.

Find Birds of a Feather

Supplement your own cause marketing content with curated posts from partners, donors, board members, etc. related to your niche or industry. These posts might be ones that mention you or a reshare of articles that have a unique view that your audience would enjoy.

Change language when talking about climate change

Climate change is a polarizing topic, particularly on social media platforms. EOS wanted to be known as a curator of good data and ideas, that didn’t try to scare people with dire messaging. We worked closely with EOS to unveil the value of integrated storytelling by leveraging their research. Finding the stories that bring people together will make it relevant to a wider audience by adapting phrasing to avoid sounding like the sky is falling.

Be Hyper Relevant

If you don’t have enough data to accurately gauge what your audience likes, create different types of content to see what your audience engages with most. Some content should serve the purpose to educate and some to promote. Overall, make sure social content in the calendar is intended to help your audience grow closer to the cause. A good start is ⅔ of the content informational and ⅓ or less should be promotional. A constant stream of overly promotional calls to donate can alienate followers, it is essential to focus on engagement over donations in your social media calendar. Watch the trends in your engagement to find trends and patterns in content and posting times, then curate the social calendar over time. 

Continuously Improve

Think of your social media calendar as a series of experiments with constant refinement. This will give you a better understanding of your audiences and help you build a social media calendar that consistently delivers results. Cause-related social media is all about engaging the people who are interested in your cause, providing them with value, and inspiring them to take action. Cause marketing is not just a philanthropic endeavor — it can build a base through authentic engagement and lead to building an active community.