Hey, want to guess where the world’s biggest Earth Day celebration takes place? San Francisco? Nah. Berlin? Try again. Sydney? Nope, not even close.
Would you believe… Dallas? Yes, you read that right: since 2010 Earth Day Texas has hosted what is generally recognized as the world’s biggest Earth Day celebration in Dallas, a festival including exhibitions, interactive displays, panel discussions and lectures by experts, family events, music, food and beer.
And this year’s event, which took place from April 22-24 (okay, that’s three days), set the record for the largest Earth Day Texas celebration yet, attracting over 125,000 visitors. That’s up from 29,000 attendees last year, and more than double the previous record of 58,000 set in 2014 – and it turns out social media is responsible for much of this increase.
The social media push for to promote this year’s celebration was led by Commerce House, as part of a cross-channel campaign also including print, TV, and billboard ads. Together these helped revamp the event’s image by positioning it as a movement rather than a simple once-a-year event, based on insights about environmental attitudes (many people now view environmental awareness as a given). By the same token the new approach also presented the Earth Day celebration as just that – a celebration, where attendees can also learn about practical things they can do to help the planet – rather than an exercise in communal guilt and anxiety.
Beginning a month before the event, Commerce House segmented potential attendees and targeted them with tailored messages on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For example, moms might see messages about the environment and healthy households, while businesspeople received messages about sustainability and savings; tailoring extended to multiple versions of ads about popular exhibits. Commerce House also made sure that event sponsors were able to communicate and promote themselves via the event’s social media tie-ins. Overall the Earth Day Texas social media efforts reached 862,000 people on Facebook alone, up more than 3,500% from the previous year, and generated around 63,000 Facebook actions including likes, comments, and shares.
During the event itself, Commerce House created a newsroom of six people who curated and monitored social media during the event, including an Instagram journalist. According to Lauren McClure, Commerce House’s director of content and social media, some of the best evidence of the campaign’s impact was the success of the “Tiny House Village” exhibit, which proved the most popular attraction (with 1,900 attendees waiting in line for admission at one point) despite only being promoted on social media.
Meanwhile Commerce House CEO Mark Denesuk acknowledged the apparent incongruity of Dallas hosting the world’s biggest Earth Day celebration, but pointed out: “Texans are actually on the forefront of environmental consciousness. We’re one of biggest alternative energy users and we have a lot of people who care here. We certainly proved there are at least 125,000 of them in Dallas.”