Social Media as a Wildlife Education Tool
Social media can have many bad aspects to it but it is also a fantastic tool when it comes to wildlife education, though it can take a bit of time to learn how to juggle between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn and YouTube but it is worth it if you want to engage and educate with as wide an audience as possible. I know there are other platforms out there but I have stuck to these six. In fact I only started using TikTok recently and have found it a very interesting and different experience. But let's go back over a decade...
One of the firsts in my career is that I was behind the first Local Authority Biodiversity account on Facebook, way back in August 2010. It would have been sooner than that but getting permission took an age! Quite a few folk both in the organisation and outside it questioned if it was a legitimate use of my time. Very soon after setting up on Facebook I was able to show a lot of local engagement with increases in attendance at local biodiversity events.
The start of the next year I was in process of setting up Lothians and Borders Mammal Group with my friend David Dodds. I insisted on setting up a Facebook page prior to our first meeting to get as many along as possible. David, and he freely admits this, was not sure how much impact this would have. However he became a convert to the power of social media after 35 people turned up for that first meeting!
Later that same year I became the Centre Manager of The Wildlife Information Centre and one of the first things I did was set up a Facebook page for the organisation. Not long after this someone at a meeting was saying how Twitter was a great way to engage with a new audience so I set up a Twitter account for the Centre! I am positive that having profiles on both Facebook and Twitter helped increase engagement with a wider group, as was seen at the spring conference in 2012 when there was not just a much bigger attendance but also a much wider age range.
Over the next few years I signed up for LinkedIn, though never really got into it until David Dodds told me how useful he was finding it. How times change! I also made a few videos for YouTube but they were nothing special. It wasn't until lockdown in 2020 before I made some proper wildlife educational videos on Bat Detectors and Camera Traps that led to me producing weekly YouTube video for My Wildlife Year during 2021. I also posted these videos to Instagram which I had started using in 2016 to post mainly wildlife photos and occasional videos. I created a Facebook page and Twitter account as well as an Instagram account for My Wildlife Year.
As I wrote earlier I have recently started posting TikTok videos which are quite different to my YouTube and most of my other social media videos I had previously posted. They are of a limited length and so have to be much more focused in what I want to say. I have also had to be a bit more creative which I am really enjoying. I've got a personal TikTok account and a My Wildlife Year TikTok, both of which I use for wildlife content.
So over the years I will have posted thousands of photos and hundreds of videos of varying lengths to social media. Why do I do it? Well it is not for likes or comments to increase my ego, though I challenge anyone not to be a little bit smug when Chris Packham retweets one of your tweets about a beefly!
The reason I do it is for wildlife education. Not just to educate others but to educate myself. Sometimes I get IDs wrong, especially with some invertebrate groups, and I am happy when someone corrects me. However the vast majority of my posts are to educate others and that is what really gives me a thrill!
When someone comments on a post that what I had posted has helped them with an ID or someone approaches me at an event to joyfully tell me that he had managed to get a Dragonfly to land on his hand after watching a video of me getting one to land on my hand it makes me realise that what I put on social media can make a difference, whether it is increasing someone's wildlife ID knowledge or teaching them something that brings them a little bit of joy.
For all that I am a great advocate for using social media as a wildlife education tool it is important to not let it take over your life. I limit how much I post to social media and what types of posts I make. Some social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, have a story facility where you can post something for 24 hours. I enjoy watching what others post but rarely post stories myself as it doesn't fit in with the way I want to use my social media.
If I'm going to film some short clips and edit them together to post then I will set aside some time to sit down with a coffee to do that but not at the expense of not doing something else. What I'm really saying is that if you are going to use social media as one of your wildlife education tools then don't try and do everything with all the different platforms. Choose what gives you the outcomes and outputs you desire and most importantly do not do too much that it causes you stress! Also learn the different shortcuts, such as enabling your posts on one platform to be shared directly to another automatically.
If you are interested in what software I use for editing:
On my phones (I have both an Android and an Apple) I use InShot which is free to use but you can upgrade to Pro version. It is pretty easy to use and you can edit videos and photos on it and also create collages of photos.
For my YouTube videos I use VSDC which is also free with option to upgrade to Pro version. VSDC is a bit technical but there are plenty tutorials available online.
Another useful tip is to chose a username that is available across all platforms you want to use as it makes it easier to share. I am lucky that all my personal accounts are @graemebwilson and all of My Wildlife Year accounts are @mywildlifeyear. The exception in both cases is YouTube as I do not have enough subscribers on either channel to get a username but maybe one day!
When I started writing this blog I was not exactly sure where I was going with it and to a certain extent I am not sure where I have gone with it but I hope you have found it an interesting read!