Episode 146 - Green Blogger Series: Danielle Brigida of National Wildlife Federation
GreenTalk Radio host Sean Daily talks with Danielle Brigida, a marketing and social media expert working with the National Wildlife Federation.
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Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series from GreenLivingIdeas.com. GreenTalk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Hey everybody. This is Sean Daily with GreenTalk Radio. Welcome. Today we are going to be talking about promoting wildlife causes through social media and social networking,
My guest to talk about that with me is Danielle Brigida, a marketing and social media expert working with the National Wildlife Federation. She also blogs. You can find her work on WildlifePromise.org and NWF.org/view.
As the United States largest conservation organization, NWF works with over four million members, partners and supporters nationwide to actively educate, develop resources and promote achievable solutions. They seek to empower and inspire everyday Americans to address causes, including global warming, protecting and restoring wildlife habitat and connecting people with nature.
Within her role at NWF Danielle specializes in the use of social media and other tools to engage activists to protect wildlife. Among her social networking duties Danielle is NWF's lead voice on Facebook, MySpace, CareToo, Change.org, Digg, StumbleUpon and other sites where she tracks emerging trends and finds the most effective ways to engage individuals with wildlife causes. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a BA in technical writing. It says that she spends her spare time reading and enjoying the outdoors far away from the computer screen. Danielle, welcome to GreenTalk.
Danielle Brigida: Hi, thank you for having me.
Sean Daily: It is our pleasure. You and I have gotten to know each other a little bit through the social networking sites as I have with a number of other people that have been on the program. People are going to start thinking that I just hang out Twitter all day. I really do get other work done, but I meet all these wonderful people. They are involved in great causes and organizations. I am really happy to have you on and put, as I said in one of my Twitter streams, a voice to a tweet, as it were, as odd as it may sound.
Why don't we start by having you tell our listeners and myself a little about NWF, its causes and, maybe, how you first came to be involved with them?
Danielle Brigida: Sure. Well, first off, it's great to be here. Thank you so much. I am really excited about actually talking to you as opposed to just tweeting you and doing all that.
I started with National Wildlife Federation a couple of years ago, about two years ago, but I've actually really been really in love with the organization for years before. I started getting Ranger Rick magazine when I was a kid. Then, I was involved in their campus ecology program in college, and finally I graduated from school. I did a bit of research on bat conservation, and then I decided to apply. I've been working at NWF ever since, in love with it all the same.
I got involved doing a lot of what I do now just by acting on impulse and seeing a need for what needs to get done.
Sean Daily: So, Danielle, what is your specific role and your day-to-day duties with NWF?
Danielle Brigida: My specific role is I serve as the Associate Operations Coordinator for National Wildlife Federation, and that entails a number of things. I train other staff members on how to use Conveo [sp]. I also build emails with HTML and CSS, but a lot of what I do on the side and how I met you and some wonderful people is I do a lot of social media stuff.
You could look at me as the person who learns how to harness tools and then train other people on how to use them. I'm trying to always find the best way to reach people and get out our message.
Sean Daily: Well, social media is amazing. There's a lot of leverage on it. I imagine for non-profits and any organization that has a low budget or is reliant on sources outside of themselves for their funding that social media provides the potential for a lot of leverage because there is the ability to reach a wider audience without necessarily having that equate to hard dollars. Is that one of the things that led you into it?
Danielle Brigida: Absolutely. You have to realize that with a non-profit the size of NWF a lot of times it takes forever to get things done, and it takes a lot of money. And so, social media allows things to happen quickly, and you can create a buzz around your campaign or your cause amazingly quick if it's done effectively. Social media has been wonderful and I am addicted.
Sean Daily: Well, it's amazing and you really are at the vanguard of it. A lot of people look to you as one of the early adopters of social media and especially within the Green Movement; the Greenies, as we call them, on the various networks, Facebook and Twitter, and so forth like that. A lot of people look to you as a lead to how to do it correctly.
I know you have been giving some talks recently to other non-profits and cause based organizations on how to leverage social media. Tell us, maybe, just about some of the sites, some of the campaigns that you've implemented and how they've been successful for you and NWF.
Danielle Brigida: Sure. Well, for awhile I was really active on Digg. I find that when working at a non-profit it gets really old because you've got a lot of people just wanting to ask for money. So, I think sometimes when you think of a non-profit you think of somebody just really asking you for money.
Of course, it's a good cause, but it gets exhausting so the great thing about social media is that it is sharing information. For the most part, people are really hungry for information. I am presumptuous in thinking that people really want to learn about the environment and care so I just want to give them as much information as possible.
I want to introduce my non-profit and others as a resource and not just somebody who needs money but somebody who wants to provide you with information so you can make a decision. And so, I was using Digg and a lot of social bookmarking and news sites to share the current research that was going on and that was happening. I got pretty into Digg, and I met some really great people through it.
That goes with StumbleUpon as well. I'm a big advocate for StumbleUpon. If you're a non-profit and you've got a great message and you want to get exposure, I think StumbleUpon is a great way to go social media tool-wise.
Sean Daily: I want to interject there for people that aren't familiar with StumbleUpon and Digg. They are sites that let you discover other sites out there and connect with other people that use that network to discuss the content. So, it creates a conversation around the content and helps to make content the community, sort of crowd sourcing the community collectively to be good or bad, in some cases, to be piloted as it were.
Sorry for the interjection. I'll let you continue there.
Danielle Brigida: No, that was great. I think part of what I talk about is just how to use these and how I use them and the ethical rules that you have to keep in mind when you are doing this because you can't look at your social media sites as an extension of your mailing list or anything else. It's a very different world, and I think that's harder for non-profits to get into.
So while you are seeing a lot of non-profits adopting social media, you are also seeing push back because they are like, "Oh, but it's so much time to invest in". I'm trying to spread the message that it's just a new way to do old business.
Sometimes, I still have to do it within my organization because they are worried about return on investment and how much time am I putting into this. I think people are realizing that it's no longer really a choice. Everyone should be doing it because there are people on these networks who want to learn about you.
Sean Daily: Sure and have you been successful in cross pollinating between, you gave email marketing as an example. I know you are heavily involved in that. Have you had a good success rate on the website and the email list cross pollinating over people to Twitter, "Hey come check us out on Twitter or Facebook" and having those people actually click through and do that?
Danielle Brigida: Yes and a little bit of no. One thing is National Wildlife Federation has a much older audience, and so while we have pushed people over and tried to push out our social networks on sites, we've been very selective about when we do it and why because for the most part they're not really interested. Even getting them to open an email is sometimes as far as we can really expect them to go.
Really, the people that I am cultivating on a lot of the social networks and getting to know and having the opportunity to work with are a different audience entirely. It is ideal for me to be on these networks because we're working at a new audience who might not... Their great-grandmothers are still donating but they might not be.
Sean Daily: Right. Exactly. Now, I'm curious and this is a question that comes up a lot with people that are using social networking, regardless of whether it's cause-based or for profit or what have you.
What are you doing at NWF to measure your success online in general as well as with the social networking sites?
Danielle Brigida: Well, this is a great question. One of the things that is hard is that no one has any set metric that you have to reach to be successful, but I think it's important to go into any campaign, especially when you are running online, with a set of goals in mind.
If we're looking to get 10,000 people to take action on the endangered species act attack, we will have that set goal. Whether or not we reach it, it still helps you measure what is possible and what isn't. But, I think it really depends on what your campaign goals are.
I know, for me, part of what my return is, is just making connections with people who are passionate and who care. I keep track of them and keep track of people who can really be leaders within their community. Maybe, not even leaders but something more than leaders, people who are interested in the cause beyond just pushing it out to their friends. But, they really care.
And then the other thing, of course, we look at the normal page views and how many friends we have and really I do a lot of testing to see what works. I know the networks pretty well, and if you guys aren't on all these networks each network has its own specific community.
I can tell you an article that I might push out to Digg, the social news site, may not work, but it may work great on StumbleUpon. I keep that in mind. If I see something working really well on StumbleUpon I'll make a note of it, and then the next campaign I'll push it out and focus more of my time on StumbleUpon and really build an audience there.
Sean Daily: It's really true. They are their own microcosms, and they are totally separate unto themselves. I've even been told if you're not a power digger then it's best not to Digg an article because you can actually hurt the person. So, there's all these sort of rules and so forth. There are documents and facts out there. I know how people do this.
What are some of the tips you might have? If you don't mind me putting you on the spot here, what are some of the tips you might have for people that are new to this, things to watch out, the gotchas, things to avoid and, maybe, things to do on the various social networking sites?
Danielle Brigida: I think with all of them the number one thing you can do because whether you have your own personal profile or your organization's profile you want to be respectful of the community. I think that's a big mistake that non-profits, and not just non-profits but marketers in general make as they get into the community. Instead of listening first, they immediately start pushing out their message and expecting results.
I think if you're going to do this you want to listen and just observe the community. See what gets attention and what doesn't. Then, you can decide if it's really worth your time. I think a lot of what works with social media is just doing it and failing quickly or succeeding quickly. I would say if you don't have a profile on as many of these sites that you can, you might be falling back on the times, but that's just my opinion.
Sean Daily: No, I agree 100 percent. I would even take it a step further to, say, from a brand protection standpoint. Again, whether for profit or non-profit or what have you, or even an individual that has a brand, that you should go on any of the new significant sites and create an account, whether you know that you are going to use it or not because people can co-op your name, particularly if you have a recognizable brand and they'll do it.
So, it's really important from that standpoint to assure that your brand identity online is established and protected. It's a lot easier to do than it is to get somebody to relinquish it as with a domain name or something like that.
Good advice from you and something that we've definitely seen over and over again with people getting famous celebrities names on sites and getting thousands or hundreds of thousands of subscribers. I probably shouldn't give any more information away here. I'm going to start encouraging people.
When we get back, Danielle, I want to break this into part one and part two. I want to talk to you about the social media side and your experience there when we come back. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back I want to talk a little bit more about the organization making a difference and the causes that you guys support in NWF. If that sounds good to you, we'll do that.
Danielle Brigida: It sounds great.
Sean Daily: We'll be right back. My guest today is Danielle Brigida. She's a marketing and social media expert working on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation or NWF in their efforts to protect wildlife.
You can find them online at www.NWF.org. She is also a blogger and you can find her blogs online at WildlifePromise.org and NWF.org/view.
We'll be right back on GreenTalk Radio. Thanks everybody.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody. We are back on GreenTalk Radio. This is Sean Daily. Today we are talking about promoting wildlife causes, specifically the NWF's causes, through social media with Danielle Brigida who knows a lot about that as an expert in social media and marketing.
Danielle, we were talking before the break about social media, social networking, the leverage the organizations can get from doing that. I'd like to drill in a little more specifically about NWF.
Let's start with your experience based on causes and making a difference. Can you tell us about a time, maybe even the first time when you really felt you were making a difference with all of this work?
Danielle Brigida: I feel I make a difference every day, however, small. I feel like when it comes to my email marketing we made a difference. Back when I first started, actually, we made "Inconvenient Truth" movie parties, and we had a lot of our activists go out and do it. We had over 300 different parties around the country. I just don't know. That was when I really felt the energy with NWF. We did some social marketing around that, but we also did a lot of email marketing so I really felt like people were energized around it.
That was the first time and it was when I first started, but since then I've just been so amazed and impressed, both with the organization but more so with the people. It can be really touching, and yes, sometimes on social media if I get something to go popular on Digg you get a lot of "global warming is not real". You get a lot of that, but...
Sean Daily: Deniers, climate crisis deniers, yes.
Danielle Brigida: That's not even the point of what we're doing. And so, you can definitely look beyond that and see just a lot of people who care about the environment and who want to connect with nature and who want to protect wildlife and their habitat.
So, I feel really lucky and yeah, I see it pretty much everyday. I'll get a side comment or somebody encouraging me and it really makes you realize that you are making a difference.
Sean Daily: I have a question for you just going really directly to the causes that you support. What are some of the more important National Wildlife Federation causes that maybe you'd like to call attention to in this opportunity in this podcast for our listeners?
Danielle Brigida: Sure. Well, right now we're really focusing on connecting people with nature. So, we have a couple different sites that do that. One, in particular, is for parents, but it's called GreenHour.org. It's a great site. It gives you ideas on how you can take your kids outside and give them unrestricted play.
We are really trying to build that emotional connection to nature so that the future generations who are spending so much time online will have that. I think that's what NWF does really well. We have our magazines, and we also work to protect habitat.
We encourage people who have homes to keep their backyard friendly for wildlife so you can have a water source and that's certifying your backyard. I encourage people to do it, either way.
Just to realize you can make a difference both within your community and by buying nature friendly products and doing everything. Really, everything you do does affect the environment around you, and NWF has a good way of bridging the gap and showing you that through all of our programs...
We have another program called Good Neighbor Program, and that's something where we encourage people to reduce the energy they're using by a number of ways, a lot of which you guys talk about on Green Living Ideas. We are really just trying to show people you can be happy. You can be yourself, but you can also be helping wildlife while doing that.
Sean Daily: That's great. Now, I'm curious about, obviously, the economy is the number one topic not only in the news but also in the presidential elections and everywhere worldwide right now.
Is the current economic climate a concern for non-profit and cause-based organizations vis-à-vis, maybe, a lower expectation of revenue through donations and such? Is that a concern right now?
Danielle Brigida: It hasn't taken its toll yet.
Sean Daily: Knock on wood.
Danielle Brigida: Right. Well, I think right now with the Green Movement that is happening all around we've been benefiting from that because people really are... We have been saying the same message for so many years, but people are really listening. So, I don't think we've seen anything really, but we are really just trying to encourage our members to save money but donate.
We try and give them as many tips. I think we've sent quite a few emails recently about how to save money at the pump, and it helps the environment by doing that, by using less fuel, obviously, or gasoline. It also helps wildlife because what you do at your home it really does affect the world around you. That's something we're trying to push.
Sean Daily: Are you guys getting involved in legislation against encroachment? Is that a big part of what you do? Are you getting involved in various states, for example, legislation to help prevent the loss of habitat?
Danielle Brigida: Absolutely. We have a huge advocacy role or we play a huge advocacy role, and we do that in a number of ways. I'm on what's called the Action Team. What we'll do is we'll pay attention with what's going on in Congress, and then we will push out action alerts. But, also we have really effective lobbyists, and we have fly-ins so that people can come if there's habitat that's at risk. We do a lot of stuff with that.
We've actually even engaged certain hunters and anglers to fly in and lobby on behalf of the federation. That's mostly to really show that we're bigger than just a certain kind of... We're non-partisan.
Sean Daily: I imagine those people have a literal ground, birds-eye view of what's going on that they can really write testimony about the problems that are occurring.
Danielle Brigida: Absolutely. That's what's really effective when you are going into these offices and lobbying is when you have someone who is in Oregon fishing and sees climate change in action. We really try and be bigger than politics and everything else. We just want people who protect wildlife. We're not going to judge them why. We're just going to help them as much as possible.
Sean Daily. Sure. Absolutely. I am curious. What steps can people listening in today take to support wildlife causes in general and also the NWF?
Danielle Brigida: I mean, I think it's with everything else. If you're more comfortable working locally, like I was talking about earlier, certify your backyard or, at least, read up on how you can make your backyard more friendly for wildlife. If you're a homeowner, if you live near a school, you can even have them certify their yard.
If you're more comfortable working on a national level or online, find me. I can direct you to anything you want as far as online activity. We have a volunteer program that works for our habitat steward people who are looking to make wildlife habitat more available.
Then, we also have a variety of programs that we would love involvement in. If you're really looking to make a difference and help wildlife, search our website or come contact me. I'm on pretty much every social network there is.
Sean Daily: Well, listen. I want to ask you about that. I know that you're personally on Twitter as StarFocus and then the NWF's on at Twitter as NWF. What other ones can people find out from the various networks? I know you are on Facebook. Can you offer some of the other ones?
Danielle Brigida: Sure. Are you talking about me or NWF?
Sean Daily: Whichever.
Danielle Brigida: I try and be on everything, so StarFocus is my typical handle for a personal thing. But, if you search NWF and there's actually a dinky little web page I made, but it's just online NWF.org/socialsites. That's where NWF is present, and then we've also got Facebook, MySpace, Digg, ReadIt, StumbleUpon. I'm StarFocus on StumbleUpon. You know this, Sean.
Sean Daily: Oh, yeah. That's the way you've got to do it because you never know. You're going to catch different people on different sites.
Danielle Brigida: There's all a little different and it's fun.
Sean Daily: They are all a little different. Then, there's a few that are really cool. They won't take off. You're like, "Why won't that take off?" Like, Plurk. It's like great interface. Nobody's on it. Well, people who use Plurk are probably going to write in and tell me, "I'm on Plurk. What are you talking about then?"
Danielle Brigida: Yeah.
Sean Daily: I can't find a lot of people, but yeah, that's great. It sounds like the site you mentioned have been indexed on all the online presence you have.
Danielle Brigida: Just search my name. That's how I remember what sites I'm on sometimes.
Sean Daily: Right. I have to mention for people who are into this, too. There's this awesome tool, and you might use it as well or you may know of it - Ping.fm for updating multiple social networks using one tool. It goes out and basically updates them all from one entry.
For anybody who is managing multiple social media sites, a very cool tool to check out: Ping.fm. There's tons of other ones out there, but I really like that one a lot. It also has an iGoogle gadget so you can put it on your iGoogle home page and literally type it in there which I find quite useful.
Danielle Brigida is a marketing and social media expert working on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation in their efforts to protect wildlife. You can find them online at NWF.org.
Danielle, it was a real pleasure having you on the program and would love to stay in touch in the future.
Danielle Brigida: Thanks so much.
Sean Daily: Thanks as always for everyone listening in today. Remember for more free, on-demand podcasts, articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.GreenLivingIdeas.com.
We'd also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions. Send us an email at [email protected].
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