Marcellus Shale Region Shale Advocate
Sometimes, it’s the little things that show whether you’re winning or losing and the apparent slow death of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign may be an indication they’re out of gas.
Remember what you did on Earth Day this year? Me neither. But, I know what the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign wasn’t doing: “tweeting.”
Tweeting is the term used to describe posting information to the social network called Twitter. In fact, Beyond Natural Gas hasn’t posted anything to Twitter since March 30, 2014. It has basically walked away from what is arguably the most influential social media platform with journalists and news organizations. This is important for a couple of reasons.
Beyond Natural Gas Goes Silent on Twitter
First, Twitter is a crucial source of news for a growing readership. Witness the “hashtag activism” of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign or the ubiquitous Twitter handles throughout any TV news or sporting event. (I am @ScottAM54 – follow me!)
Second, according to a recent report by Indiana University journalism professors Lars Willnat and David H. Weaver, journalists use Twitter more than any other social media outlet. For Beyond Natural Gas, ignoring Twitter not only ignores a key demographic; it also removes it from visibility with journalists who might advance its cause.
For those who don’t know, once upon a time, as part of its Beyond Coal initiative, the Sierra Club touted the environmental benefits more natural gas use could have – benefits that have proven true as the United States has used its new energy abundance to drive greenhouse gas emissions to 20-year lows. That changed when the national Sierra Club got pressure from its local branches to oppose hydraulic fracturing and natural gas as strongly as it opposed coal. “There was a lot of grassroots sensitivity on this at the local level,” Sierra Club President Michael Brune told Time in 2012.
The Beyond Natural Gas campaign, however, has never quite clicked for the club the same way Beyond Coal clicked because natural gas has demonstrable environmental benefits, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and allows the United States the kind of energy independence places like Ukraine and now China lack. It’s difficult to demonize something that has so many benefits and it’s only going to get harder for Beyond Natural Gas to publicize its message without a Twitter presence. Here’s why:
Twitter is the new “newspaper.” More exactly, because of its 140 character limit, it’s the new “Headline News.” According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 10 percent of the general population gets its news from Twitter. Furthermore, the report states, “Twitter news consumers stand out for being younger and more educated than both the population overall and Facebook news consumers.” If you’re fighting for the future of anything and not reaching out to a younger, more educated audience, are you really fighting?
Admittedly, significantly fewer adults get their news from Twitter than from Facebook, where Beyond Natural Gas maintains an active presence. But Facebook is increasingly a “pay to play” network. According to Social Media Today, the chances of a Facebook post “organically” reaching your followers (the people who “like” your page) will soon plummet to 1 to 2 percent. That means for every 1,000 followers, only 10 to 20 of them will actually see your posts in their Facebook feed – unless you pay to guarantee your content appears.
Beyond Natural Gas only has 427 followers, so its organic reach on Facebook wouldn’t be enough people to field a baseball team. The bottom line is this: With its Facebook organic reach so miniscule and no presence on Twitter, Beyond Natural Gas has essentially given up on social media.
If You’re Not on Twitter, You’re Beyond Help, Not Just Beyond Natural Gas
Things get worse, though, when you consider how many journalists and news organizations use Twitter to promote their stories, find new stories and see what their competition is reporting. According to the Indiana University poll, nearly 54 percent of all journalists use Twitter or some other “microblogging” site daily. What are they doing? More than 78 percent are checking for breaking news, 73 percent are checking in on their competition and 60 percent are looking for stories (See graphic from “The American Journalist In the Digital Age: Key Findings”).
But that’s not all. In another study, Pew found that journalists are linking to their own content (self-promoting) 93 percent of the time. Here’s a snapshot of the Twitter profile of Reuters reporter Ernest Scheyder.
Note how he includes contact information in his Twitter profile so he can receive tips and engage with his Twitter followers or readers. Also, here’s a recent string of tweets he shared on a range of topics. This is just one reporter, but his activity on Twitter sums up the research nicely. Pick out your own reporters and check them out on Twitter. Look familiar?
The implication of this is clear: If you want to reach a journalist to tell your story, you ought to be on Twitter. And if you want a journalist to spread the word about your story, that’s probably going to happen on Twitter as well. The Beyond Natural Gas campaign has thrown in the towel on that, or at least it has since March 30.
So why even get into all this wonky social media and media relations analysis anyhow? Because it shows another nail has been driven into the coffin of anti-natural gas political activism in the United States. Business Insider recently ran a provocative opinion piece titled “The Fracking Debate Is Over.” In it, the writer says the last gasp of the anti-fracking movement was Josh Fox’s Gasland Part 2, which was released about a year ago and quickly debunked. But further evidence can be found in several places:
- the poorly attended and toothless protests against natural gas development, like the 20 people who protested against 3,000 pro-shale advocates in Harrisburg on May 6 or the embarrassingly small “Global Frackdown 2013” numbers,
- the losing efforts to ban fracking,
- those anti-fracking candidates who get trounced by pro-business candidates at election time.
Beyond Natural Gas exiting social media is one more example: the anti-fracking movement is out of gas.