By Wenche Nag, Senior Research Scientist at Telenor Research.
Influencers who ignore young people’s climate engagement dig their own social media grave.
Travel blogging, outfit of the day, motivational quotes, #cleaneating – the list of social media trends appearing over the last years forms a rich tapestry of cultural and social variety. Some trends are evergreen, while others vanish as quickly as they appear (does anyone even remember planking or the Bottle Cap Challenge?). And although most trends serve little purpose other than to entertain, some have an intense impression on the audience and bring about profound societal changes. Since the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag appeared in 2013, it has turned into a global social justice movement resulting in mass protests, deep impacts on popular culture, and massive coverage in media. In 2022, with recent disappointments from the UN’s Climate Conference (COP26) and a grim outlook in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report fresh in memory, we expect to see a new movement shape the world of social media – greenfluencing.
“The green hashtag activism will surge, especially amongst the young, in the wake of what they perceive as yet another failed attempt by elderly politicians to take necessary actions to reach the goals of the Paris agreement. An undergrowth of climate aware influencers and activists has emerged across niches on social media, and we believe their growing follower bases will be duly noticed by the influencer universe’s established elite,” says Bjørn Taale Sandberg, Head of Telenor Research.
By tapping into both marketing and – hopefully – social considerations, the big social media stars in every sphere, from cooking and fashion to travel, makeup, and fitness, will start to greenfluence their millions of followers. Becoming more eco-friendly will not only contribute to saving the planet they live on, but it will also likely sustain and further grow their numbers of followers. The young generations will increasingly judge their idols in the light of how sustainable their lifestyle and promoted products are. This imposition of liability will ensure that climate as a topic goes viral on a scale not yet seen, as the big superstars’ audience reach is still lightyears ahead of the impact the rising green influencers alone can muster. You’ve probably already seen the ‘green ways to stay in shape’ or ‘sustainable cooking’ lists. Next year, there are no limitations to the variety of green tips and tricks that will pop up in your feed.
“The young increasingly see climate change as the great cause of their generation. Equipped with smartphones and social media, they have the means and venues to channel their engagement in numerous ways. Influencers who appear oblivious or indifferent to climate challenges will be perceived as outdated. Instead, followers will flock to influencers who demonstrate climate awareness regardless of niche. Marketers will turn their attention in the same direction,” says Sandberg.
In 2020, we pointed at 20 trends that signaled an exciting, chaotic and complex start to the new decade. Were we right?