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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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How To Use Facebook To Measurably Reduce Carbon

Facebook carbon dioxide CO2 reduce carbon drawdown social media

What links community Notice Boards, local newspaper reviews, forestry forums, and global groups on building to carbon drawdown?

See Through News leverages the powerful reach and free infrastructure of the world’s biggest social media platform to nudge ordinary people and small businesses to reduce carbon, by providing Unwilling Inactivist members with useful services.

[At the time of writing (May 2024) Facebook accounted for more than 90% of See Through’s total reach of 400,000. It was growing at more than 12%/month, on track to pass half a million by mid-2024, and 1 million by 2025. Total budget (inc. tax): $0.00]

Same ‘Trick’

See Through News’ Facebook strategy is a new twist on an old trick. More familiar examples include:

  • Pairs of enthusiastic young Mormon missionaries knocking on neighbourhood doors in developing countries, offering help with odd jobs and/or salvation
  • Businesses sending staff on the streets with trays of free snacks or drinks, which involve a ‘little chat about what they do’
  • Social media platforms offering all manner of useful services, apparently for ‘free’, but actually in exchange for your personal data

In all these cases, organisations use apparently altruistic free services (willing hands/cupcakes/email accounts) as an appealing gateway to a path that leads to their true purpose (recruiting converts/new customers/eyeball attention).

In short, a particular kind of marketing that provides something of genuine benefit to the public, in anticipation of long-term benefit to the organisation.

This is precisely the model See Through News uses for its global network of Facebook Groups.

The only differences are the purpose, and metric used to measure success. 

  • For religions, success is measured in money or souls. 
  • For businesses, the outcome metric is money from new sales or customers. 
  • For social media, the metric is money derived from the data transaction.

Different though their purposes and methods are, all three use the same metric to measure success or failure – Money.

This is where See Through News diverges from profit-driven organisations using similar bait-and-switch tactics.

STN’s Facebook groups cannot be monetised, for the simple reason that See Through News doesn’t have a bank account.

Different ‘Result’

If the result you’re seeking is profit, we’re all familiar with the unit used to measure success or failure. 

It might be dollars, euros, roubles, yen, dong, shillings, rupees or yuan, but they’re all different flavours of the same thing – Money.

See Through News uses a different metric to determine the success or failure of its Facebook operations – Carbon.

Specifically, STN uses the unit used by climate scientists – metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent reduced or sequestered (CO2e for short).

We’ve written extensively elsewhere on why and how See Through News (and sibling projects like See Through Carbon) take this money-free approach, so won’t repeat them here. Briefly, it’s the logical consequence of an organisation  whose Goal is measurable carbon reduction

When it comes to the See Through News Facebook network, the logic for not requiring the hassle, sludge and distraction of Money is much easier to explain.

Unlike most NGOs, charities and activist organisations, See Through News neither has nor uses money, because the two main things that normally require money are available at zero cost.

  • Infrastructure: provided for free by Facebook and other social media platforms.
  • Human resources: provided for free by volunteers who believe in either the immediate gateway purpose, carbon reduction, or both.

STN Facebook Groups

The See Through News Facebook network is just one part of its interlocking, cross-pollinating matrix of social media and website presences.

Facebook being the #1 social media platform, it’s the one on which STN first focused, to test and demonstrate its methodology.

See Through News administers thousands of Facebook Groups around the world. Many only have a few members, but all successes have started from the same design (and low membership numbers) and all hold some unique asset value. 

This is because each STN group name has uniquely and exclusively captured some brand value, by claiming a unique string of characters for a geography or brand, that no one else can now claim.

This ‘real estate grab’, familiar to commercial cybersquatters, exploits Facebook’s ‘first come, first served’ policy. If See Through News is quicker and smarter than anyone else to spot some low-hanging fruit, it can claim it in perpetuity – at zero cost – and exclusively exploit this brand value.

See Through News’ social media team includes some world experts in Facebook, YouTube and other major platforms. They’ve alerted See Through News early to the availability of such low-hanging fruit, which STN has diligently and methodically harvested.

Before revealing the success – in terms of membership and reach – of this strategy, here’s some necessary detail about the types of groups STN creates and runs.

Each group is designed to appeal to a specific audience, for a specific reason, and to operate within the designated scope – ‘mission creep’ is the most common Facebook Group killer. 

Nearly all See Through News’ Facebook groups (sometimes pages) fall into one of these three categories:

  1. Community: For local communities united by a postcode, STN runs local Notice Board groups, limited to that particular geographical scope, e.g. Chippenham Notice Board
  1. Topic: For geographically dispersed communities who share a particular common interest, STN runs topic-specific groups, squarely aimed at that particular topical scope, e.g.: Ben Law’s Woodland Year
  1. Media: Where once-independently-owned ‘local’ newspapers are now just local cogs of global media conglomerates driven by profit, not journalism or supporting local communities, STN has Newspaper Review groups, e.g. Salisbury Journal Review

These categories have been described in detail elsewhere, but here’s a brief summary, including links if you’d like to know more.

Community Groups

See Through News has 5 levels of geographically-defined groups, of which Level 5 is by far the most numerous and popular: 

  • Level 5 groups in turn have three sub-categories of which the first is currently the largest, as it requires the lowest level of curation, attracts the broadest audience, and the largest numbers of members.
    • …Notice Boards: typically named [location] Notice Board, [location] Market Place or similar, emulating the Classified Ads/Events pages of traditional local newspapers. They describe their scope as ‘A place for any one living in, working in or visiting [location] to post events, offers, jobs, public notices, requests, swaps, advice, observations etc.’. e.g. Salisbury Notice Board
    • I Love…: photo and video-driven, emulating the ‘Camera Club’ pages of traditional local newspapers. They describe their scope as ‘a fun space for anyone living in, working in, or visiting our community to post photos, videos, dog walk suggestions, tourism recommendations, secret places etc.’,  e.g. I Love Salisbury 
    • See Through …: focused on local news and politics, emulating the news pages of traditional local newspapers. They describe their scope as ‘ a space for residents and visitors to meet and share stories, exchange useful information, local history, lend and borrow useful items, inform ourselves about local news’, e.g. See Through Salisbury 
  • Once groups reach a few thousand, local members tend to spontaneously volunteer to help moderate them, and rapidly take on moderation tasks, often for clusters of local groups. As well as expanding STN’s volunteer network, this reduces the moderation burden as the total network grows, making its exponential expansion manageable and scalable.
  • Some local moderators are motivated solely by providing a good local community service, others by See Through’s ultimate goal of measurably reducing carbon, some by both.

Topic Groups

  • Topic groups’ primary scope is an abstract notion, rather than a fixed geography. 
  • Topic groups tend to apply an unusual carbon focus to well-established sectors, e.g. See Through Building
  • Non carbon-focused groups include Parkinsons UK, focused on patients of a particular lifelong malady, or Rolls Royce PLC, focused on a particular company. 

Media Groups

  • The company holds a set of unique assets in the form of the Facebook group names of nearly all the conglomerate-owned local newspaper brands in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hungary, The Philippines, Ireland, Canada, Mexico and South Africa.
  • These thousands of groups have all claimed the unique Facebook Group URL for the local newspaper brands, all of which were (astonishingly!) unclaimed by their corporate owners.
  • Pilot groups like Salisbury Journal Review suggest these groups have great potential not only to alert local readers to the stealth corporate takeover of their ‘local’ titles and educate them in how to spot bad local ‘journalism’ from good local journalism, but also to provide a limited, local beacon of proper, independent local reporting in the ‘news deserts’ created by the corporatization of local news.
  • This does, however, demand a high level of curation/professional experience. STN has yet to start actively recruiting suitable volunteers to run these Newspaper Review groups, but in the meantime the membership of these groups continues to rise even with no bespoke content, driven largely by the acquisition of the group URLs for these brands. For example, this STN-administered Review group of a popular tabloid in Cebu, The Philippines, has a membership of around 7,000, with virtually no content.

How To Leverage Facebook Groups to Reduce Carbon

This is, of course, the big challenge.

All successful STN Facebook groups must, by definition, be providing a useful service to its members.  With no bank account, See Through News can neither pay Facebook to boost its reach, nor charge its members to advertise in its groups.

Admirable though providing a volunteer-driven community group might be on its own merits, how do they further See Through’s carbon-reducing goal?

This is a critical point. Acquiring, administering, serving and managing thousands of groups on a daily basis over many years is a considerable commitment.

This activity clearly helps Facebook make money (as its business model depends on greater member engagement).

How can it help See Through in its Goal of ‘Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping The Inactive Become Active’?

See Through has designed two ways to leverage these hard-earned eyeballs to measurably reduce carbon.

They work on different principles, by targeting the two main types of members for local groups:

  1. Local people:  the substantial majority of any local group membership is composed of ‘ordinary people’, usually potential customers seeking the goods and services of local businesses (‘Can anyone recommend a good plasterer?’ Where’s a good place for a family Sunday lunch?).   
  2. Local businesses: the substantial majority of posts in any local group are from local businesses advertising their goods and services. (‘Looking for a reasonable and reliable local plasterer? The best place to bring your family for a Sunday roast’) 

Local People – a numbers game

See Through News, and its sibling networks See Through Together (mainly YouTube-based video content), See Through Games  and See Through podcasts, all generate a high volume of high-quality content, targeted at different, specific demographics.

Appealing content is one key component of See Through’s ‘C2C’, Content-to-carbon reduction’ mechanism (a more detailed article on this will appear shortly).

The other is an audience to whom to show it.

See Through’s Facebook group members are a captive audience to which, as groups admins, See Through has unique and exclusive access. At hundreds of thousands, See Through’s Reach already comfortably exceeds the viewerships of many commercial broadcasters, and circulations of most newspapers.

Moreover, STN’s community Facebook group members are, by their nature, an almost perfect demographic sample of that geography, unsifted by political affiliation, social class, climate activism or any factor other than geography.

They are overwhelmingly, to use See Through’s own audience taxonomy, in the target Category 3 group of ‘Unwilling Inactivists’, i.e. people who accept the science and reality of human-induced climate change, but who feel powerless to do anything about it.

Recent experiments, including this one disguised as a Christmas sweepstake competition, are benchmarking the percentages of members we can move from each level of engagement to one we can measure in CO2e.

Breaking down each step of the journey, and putting a percentage figure on it, enables See Through to use its abundance of similar local groups to comprehensively A/B test every aspect of this mechanism, identifying the weakest points, and experimenting with ways to improve each step.

One thing is certain, however, in a numbers game. As long as none of the numbers is zero, the bigger the starting pool of eyeballs, the more impact the final outcome will be, and the more carbon will be reduced.

As See Through grows its global social media reach, it increases its odds of measurably reducing more carbon.

Local Businesses – a leverage game

Local businesses may be a significant minority of any local group’s membership, but they post the majority of the posts, in the form of adverts that inform their potential local clientele of their local goods and services.

The larger the percentage of the local population that are group members, the greater the appeal to local businesses to advertise, and the greater the leverage See Through News, as group administrator, has to use this dependence to nudge businesses to measurably reduce carbon. 

We have more than business logic to prove this, we know from direct experience.

The larger groups grow, the more requests we get from local businesses asking how much we charge for them to post in our group, or how much we’d charge them to feature on our cover picture.

Also, the more urgent their enquiries become if, for some reason or another, their adverts get declined.

This ‘critical mass’ starts to show itself when the group membership passes 10% of the total population.

See Through currently (as of May 2024) has more than a dozen local groups with memberships of more than 10% of the population, with many more on track to pass this point in the next few weeks.

There are 4 groups with memberships in excess of 50% of the total population. Two are, as might be expected, some of our earliest pilots, 

The other two are spectacular successes once we started testing our methodology globally: 

The mechanism by which See Through News will leverage this reputational influence (i.e. the number of free ads they’re permitted to post) not to earn money, but to reduce carbon, is described in detail on the website of our other sibling organisation, which provides the means to do this, See Through Carbon.

How To Help

Dozens of See Through News Facebook group moderators are volunteering around the world to maintain, nurture, and expand STN’s social media reach, and help local communities.

Hundreds more are helping create the content to nudge them towards measurably reducing carbon.

You’re most welcome to join them.

If you’re interested in volunteering to moderate any See Through News Facebook group, or groups, or in learning more about any other aspects of this article, email: