The Use of Social Media for Promoting Environmental Education
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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A survey and semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect information from members of the Association of Nature Center Administrators on how their organizations are using social media, and this information combined with the results of a literature review was used to write a set of recommendations for social media use by Conserve School and other environmental learning centers. Of survey respondents, 85% reported that their organization has a profile on at least one social media site, with the most popular being Facebook, but most reported that social media use is not specifically mentioned in the job description of anyone at their organization. Specific data on how their organizations use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and video were also collected. Seven primary themes emerged from the nine interviews conducted, including the type of content posted to social media, influences on the decision to use social media (or not), the types of audiences reached, strategies for social media success, the personnel in charge of maintaining social media use, the benefits and barriers to social media use, and the debate over whether social media is an appropriate tool to use for promoting environmental education. Based on this information, recommendations for environmental learning centers include carefully planning what social media sites they will use, how much time this will take, and who will be in charge of it; mixing marketing content with fun content; and being ready for the possibility of criticism. Conserve School specifically is recommended to improve its use of Twitter, consider expanding into additional sites, and continue seeking the most up-to-date information on social media best practices.