The social media part of See Through News no-budget plan to help the Inactive Become Active – plus (almost) all our secrets on how we do it.
Why Social Media?
Before addressing Facebook, we should explain why See Through News has decided to hold its nose and dive headlong into the social media cesspool.
We’ve detailed elsewhere STN’s Goal to measurably reduce carbon. Our website has plenty explaining our storytelling methodology, and many examples, from podcasts to community filmmaking, to school language day lectures.
This article focuses on another project that’s fundamental to our aim of influencing and nudging large numbers of ordinary people. We’ve described elsewhere the nuts-and-bolts of our Content Delivery Architecture, sketching out how we exploit ‘free’ social media infrastructure to reach as many people as possible.
The simple answer is that it’s free. As a non-profit, zero-budget network run entirely by volunteers, The Internet is our only viable option. We’re all becoming increasingly aware of how our Silicon Valley Overlords (SVOs) trade their astonishing ‘free’ infrastructure in exchange for our data. We’re using their same tools to exploit the opportunity social media offers smart operators to reach many people quickly.
Simply put, our SVOs use cutting-edge technology to increase atmospheric carbon, by persuading us to buy more stuff we don’t need. See Through News uses the same tech, available at zero cost, to reduce carbon.
We use it to help what we call Unwilling Inactivists become Effective Activists. The good news is that there’s plenty of potential. We reckon 75% of us are the former, and barely any of us the latter.
Even more specifically, this article focuses on our Facebook strategy. We own the ‘See Through News’ handle on all major social media platforms, and most minor ones, but in our initial push for brand recognition, Facebook has been our cesspool of choice.
We have no desire to promote Facebook. We don’t know how we’d go about measuring such a thing, but we strongly doubt Facebook’s net contribution to humanity is positive. Indeed, we defer to no one in our contempt for Mark Zuckerberg’s sociopathic rapacity for converting our attention into advertising money.
Our reasons for focusing on Facebook are entirely pragmatic. If you seek to influence large numbers of people, especially with no money, you can’t afford to ignore a platform used by 36.8% of the world’s population every month. As of November 2021, that’s 2.91 billion users, 36.8% of Earth’s 7.9 billion people.
Since only 4.6 billion of us have access to the Internet right now, that means 58.8% of everyone online uses Facebook.
Include other Meta-owned apps like Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp, and that rises to 77% of Internet users being active on at least one Meta platform.
We’re active on those platforms too, but Facebook, for all its challenges, remains the Big One. So while there’s an awful lot wrong with Facebook, and we completely understand why so many people avoid its corrosive stink, beggars can’t be choosers. We’ve chosen efficacy over purity.
When asked why he robbed banks, the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton is alleged to have replied ‘because that’s where the money is’. He never actually said this, but we citing Sutton’s Law to explain why we use Facebook.
It’s because that’s where the eyeballs are.
Converting Good Citizens To Effective Climate Activists
People use Facebook for many different reasons, but See Through New’s strategy focuses on four of them:
- shared interests
- sharing images
By playing on these reasons, STN seeks to engage large numbers of ordinary people. Once we have their attention, we can then use our storytelling tricks to nudge these people towards effective climate action, and measurably reducing carbon.
Whistleblowers and internal leaks have confirmed what’s long been clear – our SVO’s prioritise conflict. The closer to 50-50 their software engineers can nudge the ‘debate’ on any given subject, the happier they are. It’s just business. More conflict = more eyeballs = more advertising revenue.
But this is not a natural state of affairs. Humans are social animals, evolved for cooperation rather than conflict. We have far more in common than separates us. Everyone lives somewhere, so everyone has a community.
After decades of The Internet isolating us in our rooms, one of the Covid pandemic’s less well-concealed blessings was to remind us of the importance of community. There’s nothing like being locked down, trapped in your home by a virus, to start appreciating your neighbours, neighbourhoods, local amenities, businesses and services.
People who disagree on just about everything share a post code, a park, a street, a building.
That’s why See Through News runs community News and Notice Board Groups. The UK pilots were See Through Salisbury, and Salisbury Notice Board.
See Through… groups focus on local events and news, following STN’s ‘Fun, Friendly, Factful’ mantra of being accessible and engaging, but also evidence-based.
…Notice Board groups are virtual versions of what local newspapers’ classified ad and event listings pages used to do: buying, selling, lending, borrowing, jobs, events etc.
Based on a proven model provided by an expert volunteer in the field of social media, our Salisbury pilots were set up in March 2021.
See Through Salisbury requires some curation and bespoke attention, though this diminishes after a certain point. It takes a certain amount of care and attention to establish the Fun Friendly Factful tone via early posts, comments and moderation. Once the group reached a couple of hundred members, it started to generate its own momentum.
And its own etiquette. Like people who having horsed around with mates down the pub, then behave with decorum and restraint at an office party, we’ve observed how individuals who happily mouth off and rant in some Facebook groups, suddenly become politer and less loose with their speculation when they post or comment in See Through Salisbury.
Group membership has stabilised at around 1.5% of the city’s population, but this doesn’t reflect its influence. This post, in the form of a 3-Act screenplay, reveals how.
Within 18 months, the membership of Salisbury Notice Board has reached 15% of the city’s total population of 45,000. Even now, it’s still growing at a double-digit rate. Popular posts, shared outside the public group, frequently have a reach of many multiples of the group membership, effectively the entire population of Salisbury.
This model and rate of growth has been successfully replicated, and even exceeded in other UK pilot groups. Chippenham Notice Board was set up to see if the results could be replicated in a similar-sized population in the same county of Wiltshire. This group has grown even more rapidly, with membership surpassing 15% of the total population of 36,000 within 9 months, and some posts attaining a reach of more than 100,000 – three times Chippenham’s total population.
If you follow the links to these pilot groups, you’ll see how busy they are, and how engaged and active their members. Both groups are now moderated by teams of local volunteers. We didn’t advertise for moderators, they spontaneously offered to help, motivated to contribute a few minutes a day to keeping the groups spam-free, civil, and useful.
With this model established, and new volunteers interested in moderating these groups, See Through News is now expanding our network of local Notice Board groups within the UK and internationally.
The Facebook algorithm is largely the same everywhere, and so are people. We’ll soon discover how replicable and scalable these local groups are.
As it is, within a year See Through News has, at zero cost, acquired a online local readership that’s orders of magnitude larger than the Facebook reach of, for example, the local newspaper. Which still, somehow, persuades local businesses to pay for advertising on their Facebook pages.
Following our open-source, radically-transparent, zero-budget principles, See Through News groups charge nothing for anyone to post – one of the reasons why the groups have grown so quickly. Not being interested in money can be a powerful competitive advantage.
But how does all this lead to measurably reducing carbon, let alone helping Unwilling Inactivists become Effective Activists?
See Through News has three different plans for this. See Through Games and The Magic See-Through Mirror are described elsewhere, but both will be amplified, and can be integrated with, our social media network, the third part of the puzzle.
Now we’ve achieved the numbers we need to test it, we’re about to find out how well this works. We’ll update this article when we have the data that proves or disproves this theory.
An initial appeal of the digital revolution was social media’s ability to form virtual communities of people with shared interests from around the world.
This remains one of social media’s strongest and most positive features. There appears to be no interest, passion, hobby, or perversion too niche for it not to have some website, forum or online group dedicated to its global adherents.
Using the See Through branding, we’ve set up Topic Groups. These follow the same broad categories as Desks in typical newsrooms, e.g.:
Such Topic groups post articles or commentary using See Through News’s ‘news’ style, reporting on events or publications from a carbon drawdown perspective. Facebook’s group infrastructure makes these groups convenient and accessible forums for anyone sharing this particular sector interest to follow and comment on.
Facebook groups are also good vehicles for our more directed topic-based projects. These target the most basic levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, such as:
In addition, we have Facebook groups for our various Projects.
Some are better suited for Facebook than others – the Superhero and Supervillain Drawing Competition, for example, works perfectly on Facebook, providing an online Gallery to exhibit the drawings.
Facebook’s prevalence makes the drawings easy to share with friends and family around the world. Its tagging features allow artists to compare their drawings with others who’ve chosen the same Briefing Cards. Facebook’s free hosting provide convenient downloadable versions of the Briefing Cards and other teaching materials for any teacher who’d like to avail themselves of this free, open source resource.
This, surely, is Good Facebook.
Humans are visual learners. More of our brain is devoted to visual processing than any other sense. Our Silicon Valley Overlords pay great attention to advances in neuroscience and behavioural psychology, as they seek marginal gains to boost their market share of our eyeballs.
Sharing images is one of social media’s most fundamental, addictive and engaging features.
From longer YouTube videos, to short TikTok videos, from artful curation on Pinterest to the sexual stimulation of PornHub, from image-based messaging on Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr etc., to meme gifs on Twitter, huge volumes of social media traffic basically involve sharing pictures.
See Through News combines this urge with the community appeal of our community groups, and Facebook’s free infrastructure, to create I Love… Facebook Groups.
These groups – here’s an example – are ‘fun spaces for anyone living in, working in, or visiting our community to post photos, videos, dog walk suggestions, tourism recommendations, secret places etc.’
These are the kind of images that used to be a staple of local newspapers’ ‘Camera Club’ pages.
Which brings us on to…
The more of the mass media that The Three-Headed Beasts control, the greater their ability to obstruct, delay and dodge our path to carbon drawdown. That’s why Media has a Head all to itself, along with Business and Government.
There are many NGOs, charities, campaigning groups and media literacy movements, all dedicated to raising the alarm about the growing concentration of media ownership, and its negative impact on both democracy and carbon drawdown.
See Through News has chosen to focus on local newspaper ownership because:
- It’s woefully under-reported. Hardly anyone outside the industry is aware of it, and most of its dwindling but still significant pool of readers still believe them to be practising journalism, rather than being the local cogs of global advertising platforms.
- Corporate-owned local newspapers are particularly dependent on Facebook. For most, arounod 80% of their revenue comes not from their websites, but from social media platforms. A bit of Google, but predominantly Facebook.
- Despite laying off reporters, and hiring plenty of digital brand managers, these local news corporate agglomerators all neglected acquiring some critical Facebook real estate. They can no longer do so, as The See Through News Newspaper Project Ltd. now holds these assets, acquired at a cost of $0.00, including tax.
Our pilot group is the Salisbury Journal Review. In an evidence-based but engaging tone, it points out exactly how a once-cherished local newspaper, in continuous publication for nearly 3 centuries, became a zombified advertising platform once it was taken over by one of the 4 corporate agglomerators who now own 90% of Britain’s surviving local newspaper titles.
The Internet destroyed the two revenue streams that kept local newspapers thriving for centuries – selling newsprint and the ads printed on them, but it also destroyed their critical function as independent local information hubs.
Not just buy-and-sell classified ads, but also more important democratic roles of holding power to account, speaking truth to power, articulating the Voice of the People – all have been abandoned.
It wouldn’t matter, and See Through News wouldn’t be so bothered about it, if these corporate owners didn’t pretend what they’re doing is still ethical journalism. Dressing up advertising as journalism tarnishes the notion of ethical journalism, blurring the line between Good and Bad journalism.
If people can’t tell the difference, and take what now passes for journalism in corporate-owned local rags to be representative of journalism in general, this is a big problem. Not just for local democracy – that’s not our direct concern – but once you lose faith in all journalism, the slippery slope to ‘doing your own research online’, and choosing your own facts, is all too clear.
It’s hard to discuss effective climate action with people who choose their own facts.
For more details, see The See Through News Newspaper Review Project.
The Four Pillars of Facebook Groups
In our pilot studies, we’ve seen the combined power of these four approaches, especially when combined in a particular community.
- See Through Salisbury
- Salisbury Notice Board
- I Love Salisbury
- Salisbury Journal Review
all have different scopes, and serve different interests, with different sizes and types or audience. But united by a common purpose, and the See Through brand, they’ve already formed a significant, and measurable, local influence.
We’re now starting to roll out this same model, in different combinations appropriate to particular communities, around Britain, and around the world.
If nothing else, it will be fascinating to see if what has worked in Salisbury and our other pilot groups, also works elsewhere.
If it does, and we can continue to find volunteers who can take a few minutes each day to moderate active groups, STN’s total reach will rapidly add zeroes.
Fine, but what’s the point?
Everyone’s trying to attract eyeballs. See Through News is hardly unique is trying to win the world’s attention. We, however, are doing it not to make money, but to measurably reduce carbon.
Funding, investment and big marketing budgets matter. As this See Through Tech post observes, the world’s current hot social media property, TikTok, spends a huge part of its (still loss-making) business paying its social media competitors to buy advertising space on their platforms, in their frenzied pursuit of increasing their market share of the world’s attention.
Squillions of dollars can clearly buy a lot of eyeballs, but in many ways STN is emulating Silicon Valley Overlord trickery in providing eye candy to attract them.
The difference is our purpose.
- SVOs want eyeballs to maximise shareholder return
- STN wants eyeballs to measurably reduce carbon
The notion of acquiring these precious eyeballs through street smarts at zero cost by ju-jitsuing our SVO’s technology against them is attractive, but we also constantly ask ourselves, and encourage you to do so too- ‘So what?’.
Eyeballs and carbon drawdown
Eyeballs alone reduce no carbon. Everything See Through News does is designed to measurably reduce carbon. Our projects all include objective, verifiable data trails which can prove or disprove the efficacy of all our various Fun, Friendly, Factful projects. Do they actually reduce global carbon? This, for us, is what defines Effective climate action, and distinguishes it from the awareness-raising, conscious-arousing, campaigning, petitioning activism that though it may be one potential step to effective climate action, on its own achieves nothing.
Not all the components of this machinery are yet complete, but they’re all in development, with each informing and refining the efficacy of the others.
See Through News is a work in progress, but everything we do is verifiable by evidence, and we’re rapidly acquiring the numbers to demonstrate our approach is effective.
There’s a huge asymmetry in STN’s resources compared to our SVOs, but we have the advantage of a different asymmetry – our goals.
- SVOs are doing their best to put more carbon into the atmosphere, by selling us more stuff we don’t need.
- STN is trying to reduce carbon, by helping the climate Inactive become Active
After 12 months of pilots, experiments, tweaks and trials, See Through News’s global social media reach has passed 25,000, and is growing at double digits every month.
The budget – beyond fees for the website and cloud hosting services – has been zero.
How many more eyeballs can we capture for free we’ll find out as we go, but here are our top secrets to our success so far:
- Zero Budget: our hundreds of volunteers around the world contribute their time, energy and expertise because not because we’re paying them, but because they believe reducing carbon is important, and our way of trying to promote that is worth a try. Not because we’re paying them.
- Our Brand: See Through News is a powerful and flexible brand name that links all our diverse projects. The success of any one project creates a virtuous cycle, a tide that raises all the boats sharing the STN brand name.
- Social Media Dark Arts: STN’s network of volunteers includes veterans with a level of experience, insider knowledge and insight into social media, AI, branding and strategy that is denied to all but a very small number of experts.
- Original and Feasible: a fortnight talking with the world’s most active climate activists at COP26 in November 2021 confirmed that no one else has yet tried STN’s particular combination of data-driven effective climate activism, old-school storytelling, and AI and behavioural-psychology-based tricksterism.
If you, like our current volunteers, think the STN approach might be worth a shot, you’re more than welcome to join our experiment.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.