Saturday, June 3

‘Influencers’ against climate change

Alex Sanchez

Talking about sustainability is increasingly common on social networks. It makes sense: the effects of the climate crisis are felt at many levels and Instagram or TikTok are a reflection of the world in which they operate.

“Of course, climate change is a conspiracy,” a vampire croons in English on the other side of the screen. We know that he is a vampire because he confesses it himself, because his ‘look’ is more reminiscent of the left-wing politicians of the 80s than of a Transylvanian count. And, probably, it is not a coincidence. The song goes on to confess that behind this conspiracy are “socialist vampires” who want the best-tasting human blood.

Such a delusional letter could not be more than a satire: the one that
oli frost —a content creator who makes songs about climate change—launched online this past winter. ‘The Vampire Conspiracy’ has since achieved 10 million views on different social networks, as its creator explains, and a million listeners on Spotify. “Although a few told me ‘people are going to take this seriously’, I found that surprisingly few did; amazing, as the internet can be a pretty literal space,” Frost says.

Frost’s song is humorous and fun, but it’s pretty far from unique in the type of content it deals with. If everyone and anything is talked about on social networks, it seems inevitable that they will also end up dealing with issues of sustainability, climate change or ecology on Instagram or TikTok. And just like all other themes, some accounts also skyrocket in reach and response.

“There can be ‘influencers’ in any topic or industry,” says María Marques, director of marketing in LatAm and Spain at HypeAuditor. “An ‘influencer’ is someone who has established credibility and a following in a specific niche and has the ability to influence the opinions, behavior, and purchasing decisions of her followers,” she sums up.

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“We have detected 14,711 publications with hashtags #sustainability or #climatechange, made by Spanish influencers in 2022,” reports Marques, when asked how much these issues are talked about among social media stars. “Spain generates 5.4% of the publications related to this topic and ranks fourth worldwide, after the US, UK and India,” she adds.

Carmen Huidobro and Belén Hinojar, the managers of Climabar, respond with humor when asked what they would think of being labeled as “influencers” of climate change. They do not value the use of these labels, although they point out that they are usually called popularizers.

His videos closely address the most varied —and complex— issues related to climate change —from what POPs are to where the expression “carbon footprint” comes from— with social media language and memes.

This last point is relevant, because what the more or less popular accounts that talk about sustainability and climate change are doing on social media is exactly that. They are dealing with these issues with a language that sneaks into the ‘feeds’ and helps not to move on to something else. “I try to talk about climate change in a way that someone like me might be interested in,” Frost says. “I think we need different things for different people,” he adds.

“The climate crisis has had the worst marketing campaign in history,” says Huidobro. The information, he explains, was already reaching people who were “in the world” and who were interested in the subject; but not so much to those who lived on the margins of the issue, who in the end were the ones who had to be made aware.

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Perhaps the language was too scientific, or the messages focused on the most catastrophic data. Huidobro —who is an environmentalist and has always been in these green environments— and Hinojar —who is creative—started their project during the start of the pandemic, betting on a completely different tone from the one that was being used. “We have realized that our hypothesis was real,” Hinojar balances, pointing out that these issues can be addressed in a much simpler and less blaming way.

These contents can even be funny, no matter how paradoxical it may seem, taking into account the subject they deal with in depth. Scientific studies have been showing that humor actually helps to capture attention and process all this information.

Instead of falling into a spiral of eco-anxiety, humor helps to see things from another position. Likewise, it could not only make information more accessible, but also jump over the political barriers that are sometimes connected to data on sustainability and climate change. Humor transcends ideologies.

However, do social networks manage to get their followers to integrate much greener behaviors into their day-to-day lives or to internalize the concepts that the videos and memes are transmitting to them?

In general, one of the great assets of ‘influencers’ is their power of conviction. “Influencers can have a significant impact on people’s behavior and habits,” says Marques. They do so through “their perceived authority, credibility, and popularity.” It is what leads to the fact that when an account of a star on social networks recommends a product, it sells more.

“When it comes to sustainability, influencers can certainly help promote green habits and lifestyles,” says the HypeAuditor spokeswoman. “By showcasing their own sustainable practices and advocating for environmental causes, they can encourage their followers to adopt similar behaviors,” she says, as well as make a positive impact if the products and services they display are sustainable.

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The outreach profiles specialized in this topic have a receptive audience and one that, moreover, is listening to them when making decisions. “And it is something that makes us very excited,” acknowledges Huidobro, who speaks of “people who have started to give up meat or ask us for brand recommendations” to make consumption more respectful.

In parallel, the presence of this content is increasing and with it, potentially, its reach. This can open up a new risk: after all, other topics have ended up burning on social networks when there was too much talk about them. “The eco bubble in social media is potentially a problem,” acknowledges Frost, who is using more general ‘hashtags’ and less ‘eco’ to avoid it and also to reach people who might not be thinking about exactly those kinds of topics. .

Those responsible for Climabar do not see it that way. They think it’s great that thousands of profiles appear that address this topic. “It is beginning to be counted in many ways and that is great,” says Huidobro. After all, remember, this is not a topic that is a fad, but something that is there and that has very important consequences. “We are risking the survival of the species,” summarizes Hinojar. For this reason, “we are going to see it more and more,” he adds. Perhaps, yes, what will stop working on social networks is simple ‘greenwashing’, they point out.

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