Participants at a workshop held to examine the use of social marketing in messaging to targeted audiences © TRAFFIC

Participants at a workshop held to examine the use of social marketing in messaging to targeted audiences © TRAFFIC


Published 13 April 2017


Shanghai workshop promotes use of social marketing to change illegal wildlife consumption

Shanghai, China, 13th April 2017—around 40 wildlife conservation and law enforcement officers, together with NGO representatives, met this week to examine the use of social media in awareness raising and promoting messaging encouraging changes towards consumption of illegal wildlife products. 

The “New communications approaches to reduce demand for threatened wildlife and enhance public awareness” workshop was co-hosted by the Shanghai Wildlife Conservation Centre, Shanghai Zoo and TRAFFIC. 

Social marketing is rapidly gaining momentum in China as a means to raise awareness of particular issues and for encouraging behaviour change initiatives for social good. Messaging can be highly targeted, encouraging actionable solutions by certain groups using audience segmentation and insight learning. 

In 2015, “Moving targets: Tracking online sales of illegal wildlife products in China”, a study released by TRAFFIC, highlighted the migration of wildlife cybercrime from e-commerce platforms to social media networks, where communications and financial transactions are easier to conceal. 

Wan Ziming, Deputy Director of the Shanghai branch of China’s CITES Management Authority addresses delegates © TRAFFIC

Faced with this challenge, enforcement officers are seeking ways to interact through social media outlets. The workshop featured ways to utilize social media to change the behaviour of consumers, raise public awareness and motivate responsible action by industries along trade chains.

Social media, typically mobile internet applications, such as Wechat (an interpersonal messaging app) and Weibo (China’s equivalent to Twitter) have now become the major information sharing and social communication platforms in China—Wechat had more than 700 million users by 2016. 

Social media is therefore a pivotal battleground in tackling wildlife trafficking and also in reaching out to potential consumers to reduce demand for certain products. 

“Thanks to this workshop, our wildlife conservation and enforcement officers have been brought up to date with the latest social media tools and techniques to mobilize public support for wildlife conservation,” said Wan Ziming, Deputy Director of the Shanghai branch of China’s Management Authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES MA). 

“The new Wildlife Protection Law has put the onus onto internet companies to prevent illegal wildlife trade advertisements appearing online. It is a critical time for law enforcement departments to be talking to internet providers and users through social media and new communication approaches,” said Tu Rongxiu, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Wildlife Conservation Centre. 

Participants discussed the development of effective communications strategies and practiced using the social marketing tools learnt during the workshop to formulate possible creative solutions to overcome challenges. They also examined case studies on raising public awareness about conservation of Shanghai’s wildlife and TRAFFIC’s campaigns targeting specific consumer segments, such as handicraft collectors and Chinese citizens visiting Africa.

“There has been a huge growth and development in social marketing since we first held this meeting in 2015,” said Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Office. “During that time we have gathered and compiled relevant case studies and training resources to share with our government and NGO partners and we encourage participants to replicate successful approaches in their own work.” 

TRAFFIC’s work on addressing illegal wildlife trade was generously supported by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).