Testing your plan

The realization of the environmental impact of meat – the methane produced by the livestock, the amount of food grown to feed animals that could go to feeding people, and the amount of land that goes to sustaining those animals (not even to speak about the horrific conditions that agri-business forces animals to live in) – is what made me first give up red meat, then finally go vegetarian (and flirt occasionally with veganism) 4 years ago. My own experience in moving towards vegetarianism has been interesting. The first reaction from my parents was, but what are you going to eat? Shortly after I became vegetarian, I moved to Cameroon. That’s where I really cut my teeth in learning how to explain vegetarianism. In response to my saying I don’t eat meat, the answer was often an astounded look, and “Why?” or, “But you eat chicken, right? What about goat? Fish?” By the end, I had co-workers helping me to source out what foods were vegetarian in front of me, and them sticking up for me by announcing wherever we went that I didn’t eat meat (which was helpful, so I didn’t have to try to explain myself). I didn’t convince any of them not to eat meat, but at least it seemed less weird to them.

This week, for my social media course, I am creating a mock test that could be used for a social media campaign, based on an organization that’s in the realm of my blog. I have chosen to test a part of a social media campaign for the organization, Earthsave Canada. As an organization that promotes a move to a more plant-based diet, one of their campaigns is called Meatless Monday, whereby they encourage people to take the first step towards a more earth- and animal-friendly diet by cutting out meat just one day a week, then hopefully moving on from there. I have chosen to focus on this campaign for my mock test because this kind of conversion can be challenging, as you are talking to people who may not know or may not be receptive to your message.

If Earthsave wanted to expand their outreach on social media based on their Meatless Monday campaign, they would need to figure out who their target audience is, and where they are found on social media. The target audience for this type of campaign would probably be mostly families (including children and teens), and more specifically, the main meal-planner and shopper of the family. In which case, in order to test out this campaign, the organization would want to find blogs where parents discuss food, nutrition and child-raising. By joining a few of those type of blogs, the organization could engage in discussion with parents, testing out to see if certain words or approaches work better. Is it better to target only the health angle, or to incorporate some of the environmental facts? What are the main concerns of parents when considering their meal planning – convenience, price, taste, health (including organic, enough protein, the right vitamins, etc.), and morals likely all play a role, but which would have the most influence? These are the kinds of answers the organization could get by targeting certain discussion boards, and trying different angles, to see how people responded. It would be important to make sure that the conversation is relevant to the blog post, and not coming out of the blue, so as to appear relevant and interesting, and not come across as a marketing ploy.

Since blogs where eco-conscious parents frequent would be like preaching to the converted, a good way to break into new markets would be to find other blogs that parents frequent. Since the organization is also based in Vancouver, they would probably want to start by targeting blogs in the area. This blog lists some of the top Vancouver parenting blogs, which can be a good starting off point.

Earthsave could also test their campaign messaging by conducting a conversation on their own website, and encouraging people to join and contribute through their Twitter and Facebook. This way, they can also include discussion from some of their own members, and other vegetarians/vegans who have had successes and failures in convincing others to move towards a more plant-based diet.

The benefit of the Meatless Monday model is the idea of giving people a tool to start eating less meat, and thus lowering their carbon footprint. By making a transition to a more plant-based diet, people feel empowered and capable, rather than being bullied or guilted into the switch, as other approaches may cause them to feel.

I, personally, am a bit of an extremist. When I decided to become a vegetarian entirely, I just quit cold turkey. My last meat meal was a pretty uninteresting cold-cut turkey sandwich (ha!), so I didn’t exactly give meat a big send-off. And, believe me, it’s much easier to be a vegetarian in Vancouver than it was in Cameroon!

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