Saving the rhinos one Tweet at a time

This is a blog I recently wrote for Cerebra (hence the wee work punt at the end) – which I am adding to my personal blog post as well.

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I’m not sure when last you actively tuned into the TV or radio news to catch the day’s headlines. Nowadays, relevant and breaking information is simply a tweet away. And with Twitter (followed closely by Facebook and YouTube) becoming the go-to news source, it’s not surprising that it’s also becoming a serious noise maker when it comes to causes and plights.

The latest issue to surface in South Arica is that of rhino poaching. A pretty relevant topic considering that gram for gram, a rhino horn is worth more than gold, and over 443 rhinos were killed in our country in 2011 alone.

On 11 January this year, news broke that eight rhinos had been poached at the Kruger National Park in one day – with the news came a flurry of outrage across all these social media platforms. Twitter saw the words “Kruger National Park’ trending, with thousands of people proclaiming their distress and anger at the issue, creating hashtags such as #GiveItHorns and #StopRhinoPoachingin2012, arranging Tweetups and writing blogs.

The question is – does noise on a social media platform have any relevance, and does it help the cause whatsoever?

I think it does, and here’s why: The people using Twitter to communicate are savvy forward-thinkers, with opinions, connections and a strong sense of community. A few people have even confessed that if it wasn’t for these platforms, they would be unaware of the goings on around them. The power of millions of people on one platform crying out for justice is a lot stronger than, say, the email petitions of several years back, or the ‘ag shame, it’s horrible, but what can I do?’ comments we are all used to.

Recently, PharSideUK released a chilling video on YouTube, silently narrating the horrors of the rhino horn trade. A mere four days later, that video had over 217000 views. The word ‘rhino’ has been mentioned on Twitter thousands of times in the past three days, and subsequently Facebook, blogs and other social media platforms were flooded with news, information and stories, all stemming from a single, sad incident.

This makes me think about the fierce emotions us South Africans expressed during the passing of the Secrecy Bill late last year. Again, thousands of Tweets, Black Tuesday petitions and Facebook updates were cast, yet the result was not a positive one, and ironically, all that noise resulted in a soon to be silence.

This is what happens, when you leave it up to the masses. If you had an agency to streamline this, you would have one or two hashtags, a leading opinion and a clarified goal. Working within guidelines and a structure would allow Twitter noise to turn into a broadcast message and help us all work towards a common target. With causes such as rhino poaching and speaking out against a secrecy bill, it’s pertinent to get the masses involved, but if the masses aren’t of one voice, the impact is lost.

Together, we can make a difference, both to the plight of the rhino but also to the participation in your communication campaign. Pop in to our Cerebra community for a chat, and find out how we can make your voice heard.

 

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