2022 Conference Highlight – Going Viral: How Conservation Video Storytelling Creates Change
By Holly Mauslein, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever of Nebraska
TikTok, the almighty tool of educational and laughable escape, has conservation information leaders skeptically preparing to make a jump where many have never been before.
“You all want to be part of a TikTok? It is the best way to learn,” Sarah Southerland of Oklahoma introduced during the Future of Video in Conservation Storytelling Breakout Session. A few short minutes, some awkward zooming frames and Weird Al Yankovic ‘He looks at me…. And I look at him’ voiceover, the Association of Conservation Information conference has its very own TikTok video, hosted on Oklahoma’s Department of Wildlife Conservation profile found here.
By the conclusion of the breakout session, ACI participants had over 1,000 likes. By early September, that grew to 36,800 likes, 152 shares and 148 comments. Some followers even commented that they recognized some of their own agency staff in the video.
While all of us in attendance may have not been spotted in the background by family, friends, or even strangers, the session hosted by Oregon’s Timothy Akimoff and various panel members explored the benefits of moving to video storytelling, methods and applications utilized, and tips and tricks for going viral.
Facebook remains the top application for reaching audiences and for those audiences to receive the information they look for (among our state agency websites). Moving forward, however, video storytelling now provides an access point into the mental escapes of the target audiences. It is one of those tips the panel discussed being cautious of when developing video experiences.
Short (30 seconds or less) videos offer a brief chance at intruding upon a viewer’s “escape” time to educate, entertain and guide that viewer to an outdoor opportunity. While delicately balancing the organization’s need to educate and extend reach with that of the unwinding time of the viewer, providing laughable situations with an informational undertone allows for agencies to spread conservation messages.
Expanding into universes like Instagram and Facebook Reels, YouTube and TikTok allows for non-typical audiences who have traditionally not felt welcome in conservation an opportunity to interact and feel comfortable learning. TikTok and Instagram have larger, women-based audiences that will often comment, follow and learn through these shorter video clips.
Don’t worry if you are just starting and your film is a tad shaky; these audiences are also fine with slightly lower quality from a phone-based application. No judgment there. Alright, maybe some judgment might occur, but such is the life of virtual keyboard warriors. Providing a reoccurring face to your channel allows for audiences to better recognize, associate, and relate, which could later have them up in arms to defend against “attacks” on your channel.
Understand that success isn’t always going to be in the educational content, and that use of humor with your audience is key to personalization and recognition of your “brand.”
Strategy is still an important part of the video conservation-storytelling process. Planning out content, gathering that B-roll and developing your persona are carefully thought-out pieces. Using other websites or applications like iMovie, Canva, or TikTok editing apps helps to take those draft cuts and make them viral-ready in a timely fashion, without requiring a ton of video editing skills.
However, understanding that planned content may not always be what makes you go viral is critical to using social media. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has been an expert under Sarah Southerland’s guidance, often making national news. By creating content around current trends, spontaneous videos are the backbone of viral occasions. Having additional assistance with partners and staff in the field allows for this flexibility and establishes the current nature of the content.
Don’t be afraid to ask and support staff with short clips, and then show your gratitude to them with feedback after posting. This allows audiences to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of their most trusted agencies.
While there is little expectation for this article to get 1,000 likes in a matter of hours like the ACI Video Creation during the breakout session, video conservation-storytelling will play a large role in connecting with audiences interested in conservation by accidental viewing or by those specifically searching.
By learning from those who took the dive into the social media universe early on, we will be better prepared for engaging new and old audiences and making ourselves our own type of media influencers moving into the future.
For additional tips in the social media universe, participants of the break-out session invite you to join Fish and Wildlife Social Media Coordinators.
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