Andrea Learned

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Climate Action Needs You, On Twitter


Sometimes a kick in the gut really IS what we need. While the U.S. election earlier this month rocked the globe on many levels, what struck me most was how a certain unnamed person single-handedly used Twitter to garner so much public attention. Alternatively, it may be our own inattention to the leadership power of that particular social platform that leads us to a climate action eulogy.

So, it was on one of many post-election, head -clearing dog walks that it occurred to me: let’s take Twitter back. We’ve got the guidelines from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

Three things he did that climate action leaders MUST learn from:

  • He built a powerful foundation of authentic Twitter engagement and a mass of followers long before he “needed” it/them.
  • He didn’t have a communications team carefully craft each tweet (to his team’s continuing dismay, perhaps). His perceived empathy and seemingly magic connection with voters came through in his personal passion.
  • Because he had the platform ready, he could organically pump it up during key events – in real-time – and within seconds of identifying an opportunity.

A Moment On the Continuing Viability Of The Twitter Platform…

Even before the above was making news, there’d been coverage of Twitter’s hopes to be acquired, with tech giant Salesforce as a possible suitor. As well, there’d been general discussion that Twitter might want to develop into something more like Facebook in order to grow. And then, back to the whole election process. The platform seemed to be completely taken over by ugliness that made us wish it didn’t exist at all.

But here’s the thing: Twitter has just been used extremely well to historic, winning result. Why would we let a tool that can be so powerful just fade away?

Rather, in his success with it, we now have the model for exactly how to go about reaching a broader cross-section of people with an urgent message. And, corporate leaders should be playing a big role.

Interestingly, among those already Twitter-using corporate leaders is Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff. He has used his social “voice” and influence around climate action for some time. Though, and even given his own effectiveness in using Twitter, Salesforce shareholders have not been convinced of its value as a smart investment opportunity.

What if Twitter were considered the social and environmental impact amplifier that it is? If that were the case, couldn’t it’s prospective acquisition be framed more as an impact investment than anything else? I suspect such a lens shift, with some influential Twitter users behind it, might make a difference.

For example, and like Benioff, Paul Polman and Richard Branson are also incredibly public-facing, climate acting CEOs who could easily chime in. From what I’ve seen of their contributions, engagement and accessibility on the network this past few years, they’re each primed to (loudly) share their stories of Twitter use for the greater good.

Though I am in no way an acquisition expert (obviously) , my point is that there must be some measurable return on investment from using the platform, or some other remarkable reason that these leaders all use it as much as they do. Prospective Twitter buyers could benefit from hearing about it, which in turn could benefit climate action overall.

Start Seeing #Women4Climate

One more thing, and something that the aforementioned Twitter-savvy CEOs reflect: white men are still the most visible business leaders working for environmental and social change action. As the collective “face” of leadership, in general and for generations, the white, male version remains the norm . Still, if ever there was a time to test women’s leadership and community building capacities on a critical topic, it is NOW.

To quote Paris mayor and C40 Chair-elect, Anne Hidalgo, from a recent C40Cities blog post :

The negotiation of the Paris Agreement was concretely delivered by women leaders, and women will be essential in making it a reality in our cities…There are so many women mayors, deputy mayors, CEO and NGO leaders in cities around the world. I am determined to recognise their unique role that they are playing in transforming our cities. Women are more than ever key to the future of our planet.

Gender differences and the sustainable mindset are something I’ve long studied. That’s why I feel comfortable positing that the traits of successful women leaders align well with those that would help them to absolutely thrive on Twitter. With emphasis on empathy and the communications skills that will most effectively reach a range of stakeholders, women leaders could jump in with both feet. They may well more naturally have what it takes than men do, to create community around urgent climate action needs.

That’s one reason I plan to increase my professional use of Twitter in the conversation around the #Women4Climate tag. By participating in global climate action-focused social media discussions since early 2015, I’ve seen many amazing women leaders already on Twitter. But, of course, I’ve been specifically looking for them. We need their climate action influence and digital voices, and those of many others, to be heard much more broadly.

For any leaders on the verge of jumpstarting their Twitter use, here’s a list of five women already doing wonders with it as a climate action engagement tool: clean tech investor Nancy Pfund; climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) influencers past and present, Christiana Figueres and Laurence Tubiana; and the previously mentioned Hidalgo. Their climate action leadership wattage already knows no bounds. Observe and learn.

A Climate Action Twitter Takeover

So, then. What, exactly, are we waiting for? The perfectly perfect, deadliest storm ever has occurred. We must take climate action into our own hands and keep from losing all that we’ve accomplished to this point. In late 2016, COP22 has just shown that the global will remains. Climate leaders are ready to tackle the details in getting it done, no matter the U.S. government’s transitioning circumstances.

There is a HUGE opportunity to take the climate action conversation back. Those of us who use Twitter daily are in awe of its community building and cause amplification powers. We must own it, now, and in every way.

A call to action:

First – more business leaders, scientists and other influencers, need to get on, get comfortable and join the conversations that amplify the short and long-term global benefits of taking climate action.

Second – let’s help Marc Benioff or another corporate leader see Twitter in its FULL impact investment significance, towards it being acquired and more fully developed to serve the dire need for climate action. .

Third – let’s get more women in this space to leverage their wisdom and grow community involvement. (I’ve started to curate a public Twitter list around the #Women4Climate tag, for those who want to learn by monitoring early adopters.)

Fourth – let’s make Nov. 8 THE day we got the point, so it goes down in history for a better reason!

I firmly believe that cheering, not fearing, will rule the day. We can start now, by leveraging Twitter to continue global climate action momentum. Are you in?

This article first published on The Huffington Post, November 19, 2016
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons