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Using social media to prevent litter and flytipping

Let’s talk about litter – because communicating clearly is the first step in changing attitudes and behaviour around waste.

Social media is an easy and affordable way to reach lots of different people, so it’s an essential tool in any litter prevention campaign.

Here’s how to use your social media channels to their full potential.

Visuals are vital

Posts that include images and videos generally enjoy higher engagement than ones that use words only.

On platforms powered by pictures – such as Instagram – imagery is all.

Not all images are created equal. If you’re using photography, professional shots are best – closely followed by amateur shots taken with a quality camera. Photographs from a smartphone are OK too, but take the time to make sure they’re well-lit, well-framed and in focus.

Who does it well?

Litterati

This app encourages users to snap a picture before they pick up litter. It links with Instagram to create a visual record of abandoned rubbish around the world.

Great at:

Crowdsourcing images to drive home the scale of the problem.

Glasgow City Council

The council’s social accounts cover a range of issues. Littering and flytipping feature regularly.

Great at:

Using a mix of photography and eye-catching graphics to highlight community issues and encourage people to take ownership of their local area.

Keep Britain Tidy

The environmental charity uses its social channels to show litter and flytipping in all its ugly glory. It also encourages people to report litter hotspots – or #grotspots as they call them.

Great at:

Giving visual updates of how bad the UK’s litter problem has become.

Glasgow’s Environmental Task Force

The role of the environmental task force is to reinvigorate efforts to maintain the city. It uses Facebook and Twitter to give the public a voice.

Great at:

Providing practical steps for people who want to make a difference.

Inspired?

Get re-brandable, context-specific visuals to share on your social media channels from our comprehensive litter prevention toolkit.

Encourage action

Social media is great for encouraging people to rethink their littering behaviour, or to reach those who want to see cleaner streets but don’t know how to help.

As well as promoting litter-picking events, social media is a great platform for encouraging people to do more. By sparking discussion, we can often motivate groups to ‘go beyond the litter pick’.

Who does it well?

1 Piece of Rubbish

As its name suggests, this campaign urges people to pick up just one piece of litter a day. It has 15,000 online followers.

Great at:

Introducing a simple, easily-achievable action to get more people involved.

Littergram

This UK app asks people to ‘Snap it. Share It. Sort It.’. The aim is to unite people behind the litterprevention cause and make dropping rubbish unacceptable. It has 20,000 users.

Great at:

Sharing and tagging images to draw influential people’s attention to the scale of the problem.

Become a local knowledge source

Want to build momentum around litter prevention in your area? Share regular information about local litter hotspots and highlight upcoming events in your region.

Who does it well?

Leithers Don’t Litter

This Edinburgh-based community group has turned social media into a hub for all local litter and flytipping issues. They share images of problem spots and regularly publicise events.

Great at:

Posting often to keep the campaign at the front of people’s minds.

Dunna Chuck Bruck

Anyone in Shetland who wants to reduce littering and flytipping knows exactly where to turn – the social pages of this long-running litter prevention campaign.

Great at:

Providing reliable, local information and events for people, businesses and schools who want to help.

Tell a story

It’s no mystery why humans have been telling stories for millennia – they add context to information and give people a reason to care. This makes a narrative approach one of the most effective ways of changing attitudes.

Who does it well?

Packing It Out

These guys hike across America, cleaning litter from the trails as they go. They document all their adventures on Instagram and continually capture the negative impact litter has on natural landscapes.

Great at:

Adding a human element to the litter story and inspiring their followers to make a difference.

30 Days of Trash

Rob Greenfield decided to wear every bit of rubbish he produced – for 30 days. He documented the entire experience on social media.

Great at:

Opening people’s eyes to the scale of the problem with a creative, informative demonstration.

Make the numbers interesting

Many people still don’t understand the full extent of Scotland’s litter problem. Long lists of statistics are unlikely to grab anyone’s attention, so include information in bite-sized chunks and present it in a way people can relate to.

Who does it well?

Keep Britain Tidy

The charity uses its social channels to document Britain’s litter problem.

Great at:

Sharing lots of surprising facts to help reshape the way people think about the issue.

Glasgow’s Environmental Taskforce

The task force uses graphics to deliver messages about prevention and enforcement in an engaging way.

Great at:

Sharing facts that relate directly to the local area.

Clean Cornwall

This collaborative effort, involving Cornwall-based authorities, businesses and other organisations, raises awareness of the devastating impacts of litter in the coastal county.

Great at:

Sharing easy-to-understand facts in engaging formats.

Make it shareable

Compelling posts can spread like wildfire on social media. Think creatively about how you can present

your message and make it funny, emotive, or surprising. Remember, the more people who see your

content, the wider the litter prevention message spreads.

Who does it well?

Don’t try this at home...

The Russian Litter Vigilante video shows how out-of-the-ordinary content can spread around the world.

The clip shows a motorcycle rider catching people in the act of throwing litter from their cars – and getting sweet revenge. It’s been viewed 26 million times online. Watch here.

Don’t Feed Simon

Gamification is a great way to make your content shareable. Keep Wales Tidy tapped into this when they created 'Don’t Feed Simon’. This online game challenges followers to pick up litter faster than Simon the

Seagull can get to it. It’s a fun filled way to make a serious point.

Social media masterclass

We asked Zsuzsa Farrell from Leithers Don’t Litter to reveal the secrets behind the community group’s impressive social media success.

Go offline

Great things happen in real-life, not behind a computer screen. Get outside and pick up litter. Do it every day. People will stop and ask you questions. That’s the perfect time to talk to them about why litter prevention matters. Don’t forget to take before-and-after pictures of the areas you tidy to inspire your followers to take action too.

Turn clicktivism into activism

Connecting with followers in real-life helps you build a network of people who want to make a difference rather than just hit ‘like’. Start with community clean ups – the feel-good factor of seeing immediate improvement will get people hooked. Afterwards, post and tag group photos to continue the sense of community online.

Be useful

Share information that solves people’s problems – like how to report litter, or who to tell if a bin’s overflowing. Our most shared post let people know that they could use the National Re-use phone line to get large household items uplifted for free. Promote other community groups in your area too – you can achieve much more by working together.

Stay local

Talk to people about what they’re most interested in: their own lives. Post about your immediate area and engage with your community by visiting local schools. The kids will tell their parents what you’re doing and why, which usually results in more followers.

Keep it topical

Stay up-to-date and react to what’s happening right now. Our most liked post was a group shot of the council cleansing team the day after the 2016 Scottish Cup Final. They’d just finished clearing many tonnes of litter from Leith Links after thousands of Hibs fans had gathered to celebrate the win.

Don’t forget…

Whichever social platform you’re using, get these simple things right, and you’ll significantly boost your chances of success.

Post regularly

Keep litter in people’s minds by appearing in their feeds often. Quality matters as much as quantity, so plan content ahead to make sure everything is relevant and fits into your social media strategy. Monitor engagement, then refine your posting schedule around what works.

Read up

Use online guides to find out more on making the most of your social platforms. The Moz guide is a good place to start.

Use pro tools

Make your life easier with applications. Dashboards like Buffer, TweetDeck and Hootsuite let you schedule posts ahead of time and monitor multiple accounts from one place.

Write like a human being

The more you use your audience’s language, the more likely they are to engage with your content.

Get your image sizes right

Size matters. Choose tiny images, and they’ll come out blurry. Use huge pictures, and they won’t upload. Ideal sizes vary by channel – get it right by referring to this list.

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