Submitted by guest blogger on Mon, 08/18/2014

By Amita Rajguru of IUCN’s Water Programme.

We are living in a new reality; we are faced with a world where the destabilising effects of climate change are unprecedented in living memory, and the demands on the environment are greater than they have ever been.

In the western world, where household taps flow freely, it’s too convenient to forget that clean drinking water is already a scarce resource in many parts of the world. In the face of both ridiculous wealth and incredible poverty, how can we look past our materialism and solve critical water issues before it’s too late?

The way I see it, we can’t. Materialism has permeated our lives too deeply – we need to embrace it and use it to create positive social change. NGOs used to have a reputation for sitting in research labs and collecting data that would eventually decorate shelves. And the public saw environmental issues as a game of hot potato – always the responsibility of someone with more authority… but not anymore. It’s our responsibility, as the face of conservation, to get people interested and engaged with our work! We need to step up our game and show the world how to achieve all the solutions that our research says will work. And to do that, I propose that we use the crème de la crème of materialism for all it is worth: social media.

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In a world with an attention span of 140 characters or less, I see a road forward which is paved with photos, videos and hashtags. With over 1.8 billion social network users around the world, the best way to be heard is to simply say something, and to say it simply. Thought leaders and decision makers, especially celebrity goodwill ambassadors, were quick to dive into social media, and now it’s time for the rest of us to jump in.

Using social media for good is a new phenomenon – well, newer than social media, at least. The conservation world has historically been slow to the social punch because it requires breaking away from the traditional data-heavy analysis and embracing a new technology to deliver it.

Our audience is a busy bunch; they don’t have the time to sift through piles of papers when their phone is ringing off the hook. With the information explosion, global water challenges get lost in the fray unless we do something about it. So, how can we bring the water debate to the forefront of people’s minds and screens? How about we try:

  • Staying online to broadcast key messages when our target audience is online
  • Engaging with our audience and making a lasting impression
  • Supporting our partners and members and making our shared work more transparent
  • Creating digital strategies to manage and evaluate our online performance
  • Smiling! Positivity is infectious… they’ll flock to YOU.

Social media is no longer just a place to share complaints, pictures of food, or an accidental cat selfie; the virtual landscape of social media is changing the face of the internet. Thanks to the power of viral marketing, we can engage with our audience and get real-time feedback – so why aren’t we doing more of this?

Let’s go all in with the social media bandwagon (it doesn’t hurt to be trendy)! It’s fashionable to be social, to care about the environment, and to call yourself an environmentalist – so let’s stand in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade; we are truly living in a new reality, where green is the new black, and green leaders are idea leaders.