Social media can play a powerful role for spreading awareness campaigns. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with other wildlife and conservation partners, attempted to spark awareness of the illegal ivory trade taking place worldwide by crushing over one ton of illegal elephant ivory in the middle of New York City’s Times Square. The FWS says that the event’s purpose is to send a strong and clear message to “ivory traffickers and their customers that the United States will not tolerate this illegal trade.” It is also intended to “educate consumers, in the United States and around the world, and urge them not to buy products made with ivory that could be contributing to the poaching crisis.”
The event made its way throughout social media with the trending hashtag #IvoryCrush, which was mentioned in over 18,000 posts on Twitter throughout the day. This was the second time that the event has been held; the first was on November 14th, 2013, in Denver, CO, where over 6 tons of elephant ivory had been crushed. That event accumulated over 14,000 mentions of the #IvoryCrush hashtag the day of the event.
While the first event didn’t generate as much traction on social media, we believe that this year’s event could have furthered its message by partnering with bigger celebrities. In 2013, Ariana Grande and Leonardo DiCaprio jumped in on the conversation, whose posts combined for over 6,800 Retweets. In this year’s event, it was the Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Richard Branson, whose shares brought just over 950 Retweets. Furthermore, it is important to partner with those influencers who have the ability to reach your target audience. In 2013, 33% percent of posts came from users under the age of 24, while with this year’s event, that percentage dropped significantly to just 6%, with 90% of posts coming from people ages 35 and up.
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) June 19, 2015
Location also plays a key role in the success of events such as this. Moving the event to Times Square seems to have proven successful, as #timessquare was mentioned in over 1,900 posts, whereas in 2013, there were no major mentions of the location of the event. Using our Affinities™ tool, we looked at the interests of those discussing the event and found that they had reached the proper audience. We found that users are 60 times more interested in New York City, 200 times more interested in Wildlife, 57 times more interested in Animal Welfare, and 46 times more interested in Sustainability compared against the general Twitter audience.
Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners increased the volume of conversation on social media discussing this illegal trade taking place, we learned how changes in strategy affected the outcome of this event. Holding the event in Times Square increased publicity for the event, but to take it further, organizers could look to partner with larger celebrities and influencers, such as they did in the first year in order to further capitalize on spreading awareness for this worthy cause.