How Two Nonprofits Use Social Media To Help Save Fish – #keepemwet #SaveMarinsCoho | Beth's Blog

How Two Nonprofits Use Social Media To Help Save Fish – #keepemwet #SaveMarinsCoho

Digital Strategy

Yvon Chouinard – Founder of Patagonia, flyer fisherman, rock climber, surfer and COHO ACTIVIST!

Posted by Catie Clune on Thursday, September 24, 2015

This weekend, I got to spend some time at a beautiful conference center on Falling Leaf Lake with grassroots environmental organizations at the Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference.  The event is sponsored by Patagonia as part of their grant program.    I presented a plenary session on networked mindsets and leadership and facilitated two workshops on SMARTer Social Media.


What a passionate, amazing group of people who are running these small and mid-sized nonprofits, many in remote and rural wilderness locations in the US.    I learned of two terrific examples of small nonprofit leveraging social media and user created content for their campaigns.

The Hold A Sign Meme

The “Hold A Sign” meme has been around for almost ten years.  Many activist nonprofits have used it to inspire people to raise awareness, change behavior, or other action.   It also has a benefit of generating campaign content as well as documenting support for an issue.

One of my favorite examples is the National Day of Unplugging Campaign.  The concept is simple – ask supporters to take a photo of themselves with your campaign message and share it on social media channels.

Catie Clune asked me to participate in a “hold a sign meme” campaign her organization is running to Save Marin’s Coho.  I was thrilled to add my photo along with Yvon Chouinard – (Founder of Patagonia, flyer fisherman, rock climber, surfer and COHO ACTIVIST) and over 1,000 plus other people who are raising awareness of the plight of endangered Coho.  (If you use the hashtag #SaveMarinsCoho on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with your photo, they will add your image to the album.

Thanks @kanter @patagonia for the #keepemwet love at #patagoniatoolsconference

A photo posted by Native Fish Society (@nativefishsociety) on

Instagram Contests and Hashtags

As with any workshop that I do, I believe that there is a lot to learn from the people in the room. As part of my plenary session, I did a “living case study” where I called a member of the audience, The Native Fish Society to share their story about how they used an Instagram to help save fish by taking a strategic approach and applying “POST” framework.

Their overall communications goals include:

  • Engaging our supporters quickly
  • Recruiting additional supporters through high quality content and action opportunities
  • Providing information to educate our supporters
  • Creating interactions between supporters and staff to build community

Their target audience includes fly anglers and nature lovers, typically men and women between the ages of 20-65.   Their audience also includes a target group that influences that audience, local fly fishing businesses.

They use a variety of channels for their communications messages, including these three social media channels:

The Native Fish Society recently hosted a campaign to increase angler awareness about the need to limit air exposure to fish during catch and release.  It was called the Keep ‘Em Wet campaign. As part of this campaign, they held a photo contest on Instagram featuring the hashtag #keepemwet.  They kicked off the campaign in their print newsletter and on webpage where they house the scientific reports why it is important to keep fish wet and solicited photos.

The awareness and subsequent behavior change is that most people take their fish out of the water for a photo. They wanted to shift that by demonstrating you could take a beautiful photo of a fish without removing it from the water. The photos poured in, and the staff posted the photos on Instagram.  Their follower counts went from 200 to 1800 in three months, and the hash tag went from being used 1,500 times when they started to over 20,000 times.

Key to their strategy was using influencers.  In this case, they targeted businesses and companies that serve anglers to participate.  As the campaign took off, other companies wanted to host their own Keep ‘Em Wet photo contests.   More businesses pledged their support, blogs and magazines ran articles on the idea of Keep ‘Em Wet.

They have documented this public support to work with the Oregon, California, and Idaho departments of fish and wildlife to get a fishing regulation in place that require that all wild, native fish be kept in the water during catch and release (this is already a angling regulation in Washington state.)

This is an example of “SMARTer Social Media.”  Of course once the strategic framework is place — measurable objectives, target audience definition and understanding of their perceptions, identifying social media channels they use, building a network based on engagement and using influencers — it is time to get to the nitty gritty of using the channel or tool.   That’s when you want to take that deep dive into Best Practices and look a other examples (see the Ultimate Curated Collection of Nonprofit Instagram Resources).

Instagram was initially popular with some environmental nonprofits that ran contests in the early on, but best practices have evolved.    So, if your organization wants to try an Instagram contest, be sure to cover the basic steps and carefully design it.

Has your nonprofit used Instagram as part of its communications strategy successful?  Have you used a contest?  What is your best tip?




4 Responses

  1. Colleen says:

    Hi Beth! Enjoyed your post about #SaveMarinsCoho and #keepemwet Hashtags make it great to follow campaigns. I grew up by a Coho Salmon run (Walnut Creek / Fairview PA) so it was interesting to learn about what is being done to help native fish.
    Thanks for your insights!
    Happy Monday!
    Colleen (@f5th on Twitter and Pinterest)

  2. Dialogfeed says:

    Hi Beth,

    Using #hashtag campaign for Non Profit is a great idea.
    As a social wall provider, we do have lots of Non Profit clients using a social wall to display supporters social posts in one page on their website.
    We did write an article on our blog for this

  3. […] it comes time to start posting, pinning, and tagging create a unique #hashtag for your organizations social justice mission. Photos, videos, and memes can also add to the […]

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