Another example of how social media is rural development's best friend

On 1 June 2011, IFAD launched its Environment and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) policy with a webcast discussion on “How to scale up investments in sustainable intensification of agriculture.” We decided to do a social media campaign to market the event, create awareness around the issue, and showcase our policy and case studies. The response was amazing!

We managed to create a lively discussion at IFAD HQ with UN agencies, NGOs, Civil Society, Private Sector, Media, and Academia colleagues and interested people from all over the world. These virtual participants were far from passive viewers. They engaged in the conversation by posting comments on our website and sending their questions via Twitter and Facebook.
Why use social media?
From the beginning we asked ourselves: How can we spread the word about ENRM issues? How can we engage others outside of IFAD in the discussion? How can we make people aware of the conclusions of the policy?

ENRM’s depth and breadth is immense and it is a topic that is of interest not only to experts but also to many others. So the challenge was how can we make sure to get everyone on board? How can we discuss the issues in an inclusive manner without excluding anyone?

We decided that using social media as a channel would enable us to interact with people in a dynamic way. Our decision was based on the fact that effective communications is not a one-way avenue, but rather it’s about the dialogue and interaction. And social media gives everyone with internet and/or cell phone access a voice and opportunity to contribute and join the conversation.

How did we create the social media campaign?
We started working on the campaign 4 weeks before the event. We created a landing page on the IFAD website. This page included information on the policy, on the event, and on the webcast and the social media activities that would take place. We included pictures, videos, and case studies of IFAD’s work in ENRM.

Then we formulated our main messages in tweets (max 140 characters). This is the tricky part. How can we capture the essence of a policy of 30 pages, to a tweet-friendly message in 140 characters? Well, the good thing is that you don’t need to limit yourself to one tweet. We created a number of tweets, some contained information about the event and webcast, some contained statistics from the policy, and others contained questions to the audience to get their feedback on how to scale up.

We sent out the first tweet 10 days before the event, and in the following days we continued sending tweets to spread information and encourage action and feedback. Our UN social media partners engaged and sent out our tweets, spreading the word to all their followers. The Environment and Climate Division informed their networks, and encouraged them to contribute to the discussion. Then on the big day of the launch, during the webcast, we could pose the comments and questions live to the discussants in the room. We connected ideas, and added new voices to a conversation that otherwise would have been limited to the IFAD HQ.

What did we achieve?
  • Reached over 50 000 people with over 300 tweets
  • People engaged interactively by re-tweeting our messages, and also by sending us comments and questions. We got approximately 100 new followers on Twitter during the campaign, and we were pleased to see that the private sector was engaged in the debate.
  • The ENRM site had 1300 unique visitors during the campaign, peeking to about 600 visitors on the day of the event
Our lessons learnt
For a social media campaign to be successful you need to:
  • Plan and prepare
  • Be clear about: what you want to say, who you want to reach, what you want as an outcome
Most importantly, to be successful on social media, you need to:
  • Provide good content that engages people
  • Respond to the questions and feedback
Our colleagues at the Environment and Climate Division did an excellent job in engaging with the audience. They asked follow-up questions, and replied to the technical questions. They created a dialogue.

If you missed the event (and even if you participated in the event), make sure you:

A #HighFive to Jeff Brez and his team, the Communications team, the excellent moderator Kevin Cleaver, IFAD Associate Vice-President of Programmes as well as all the people out there who followed us and engaged in the conversation. We all look forward to the next IFAD webcast and social media chatter. Until then, make sure you keep in touch with us via our Twitter, Facebook, Blog, YouTube, Blip.TV and Slideshare channels.