In August, Smokey Bear turned 70 years old. This bear of few words has made a huge impact with a simple phrase, “Only you can prevent wildfires,” reducing the loss of forest due to wildfires from 22 million acres in 1944 to roughly 6.7 million acres annually today. But this bear is anything but quiet on social media, singlehandedly making his birthday celebration a massive public service announcement in the best way possible.
First, there was his #SmokeyBday Twitter chat, which has (according to social tool Sysomos) garnered more than eleven million impressions on the social media site to date. He used this chat as a chance to ask trivia questions, share fun facts and start conversations to build awareness about wildfire prevention. His hashtag, #SmokeyBearHug, is popular among users and inspires people to share the message of how to prevent wildfires.
There is also the special Facebook app that allows you to write a personal “Happy Birthday” message to Smokey Bear on a digital birthday card, which has more than 1,600 signatures to date. The card is driving Facebook users to a fan page where Smokey Bear spreads his message of wildfire prevention and builds an emotional connection with fans, further encouraging them to participate in the conversation and build awareness.
Now we come to the culmination of this Smokey’s birthday – Instagram ads. This highly social bear has taken to Instagram, sharing videos of how to properly build campfires and extinguish them. This will enable the bear to interact with the members of the millennial generation and educate them about wildfire prevention as more than 43 percent of them are on Instagram.
Oh, you can’t forget about his birthday video on YouTube, which has topped 88,000 views and reminds viewers not to bring candles to Smokey Bear’s next birthday party.
What do all of these Smokey Bear birthday initiatives have in common? Education on prevention. In the past, social media channels have been used as crisis communications tools during events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and more. Now, the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations have begun to use social media as a crisis prevention tool.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been using its Twitter page to share information about the Ebola outbreak, informing followers of how this disease is transferred, the symptoms and how to get help to prevent the disease from spreading further. Furthermore, the CDC has hosted Twitter chats to educate others about the virus. StopBullying.gov also has used Twitter as a platform to share tips around how parents and professionals can prevent bullying among children as well as offer research to show the negative effect bullying can have.
It is truly inspiring to see organizations using social media to change the world for the better. The power to make a positive impact in only a click away.