Pro-Environmental Campaigns via Social Media: Analysing Awareness and Behaviour Patterns


  • Miriam Fernandez Open University, Knowledge Media Institute
  • Lara Piccolo Open University, Knowledge Media Institute
  • Harith Alani Open University, Knowledge Media Institute
  • Diana Maynard University of Sheffield
  • Christop Meili
  • Meia Wippoo



Changing people's behaviour with regards to energy consumption is often regarded as key to mitigating climate change. To this end, endless campaigns have been run by governments and environmental organisations to engage and raise awareness of the public, and to promote behaviour change. Nowadays, many of such campaigns expand to social media, in the hope of increasing their reach and impact. However, and in spite of persistent efforts, public engagement with these campaigns tend to be rather underwhelming. This demonstrates the need for adopting new strategies in designing and executing these campaigns. To the best of our knowledge, these campaigns often overlook existing theories and studies on user engagement and behaviour change. To close this gap, this paper uses Robinson's Five Door Theory of behaviour change \cite{robinson5doors} to analyse online user behaviour towards climate change. With this approach, users's behavioural stages can be automatically identified from their contributions on social media. We apply this approach to analyse the behaviour of participants in three global campaigns on Twitter; United Nations COP21, Earth Hour 2015, and Earth Hour 2016. Our results provide guidelines on how to improve communication during these online campaigns to increase public engagement and participation.

Author Biographies

  • Miriam Fernandez, Open University, Knowledge Media Institute

    Miriam Fernandez is a research fellow at the Knowledge Media Institute, Open University, UK, where she is part of a group specialising in Social Semantics and Web Science. Previously to joining the OU, Dr. Fernandez was research associate at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and research visitor at Google Zurich. Her research is focused on the synergy of Information Retrieval, Semantic Web and Social Web technologies. Dr. Fernandez has published more than 70 articles in various journals and conferences. She has been involved as work package leader and principle investigator in multiple European and national projects (DecarboNet, Sense4us, ROBUST, WeGov, Xmedia, SmartProducts, Mesh, aceMedia, OUSocial, Lucero, S5T). Fernandez is a frequent member of organisational committees for Semantic Web conferences: Workshop and Tutorial Chair (ISWC 2015), Web Science Track Chair (ESWC 2015), Student Coordinator (ISWC 2014), Posters and Demos Chair (ISWC 2013) and she is pat of the editorial board of the Journal of Web Semantics. She also acts as expert reviewer for ANEP, the Spanish National Funding Agency.

  • Lara Piccolo, Open University, Knowledge Media Institute
    Lara Piccolo is an Human-Computer Interaction researcher at the Open University in the UK. Her research is focused on exploring the potential of technology to promote social changes. Featuring human aspects on technical developments and bridging academic research with the society are her main target.She has worked on technology design to engage communities with energy saving and climate change for the European Project She is a Computing Engineer. Obtained her MSc and PhD degree in Computer Science at [UNICAMP]( in Brazil. 
  • Harith Alani, Open University, Knowledge Media Institute
    Professor of Web Science at the Knowledge Media institute, The Open University. Previously to joining KMi, I was a senior research fellow at the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton. I have published more than 120 scientific papers in various leading journals and conferences, and have been involved as a Principal Investigator in several national and international research projects. Currently I am Co-ordinator of two EU projects; FP7 DecarboNet, and H2020 COMRADES, and member of the Elsevier Advisory Panel. Recently I served as the programme co-chair of World Wide Web Conference (WWW) 2014 Web Science Track, International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC) 2013, and ACM Web Science Conference (WebSci) 2013. 

  • Diana Maynard, University of Sheffield
    Dr. Diana Maynard is a Senior Researcher at the University of Sheffield. She obtained a PhD on the topic of Automatic Term Recognition from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2000, and has been involved in research in NLP and text mining since 1994. Her main research interests are in information extraction, opinion mining, social media analysis, term extraction, ontology development, and the semantic web. Since 2000 she has led the development of USFD’s open-source multilingual IE tools, and has led research on a number of UK and EU projects including COMRADES, DecarboNet, Arcomem, KnowledgeWeb and NeOn. She regularly provides consultancy and training on NLP and GATE use in the public and private sector, and is advisor to two start-up companies. She has published extensively, organised national and international conferences and workshops, given numerous invited talks and tutorials, and reviews regularly for conferences and journals. She is the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Natural Language Engineering, and reviews project proposals for the ESRC and RNTL.
  • Christop Meili
    Christoph Meili is an environmental engineer working for WWF and ESU-Services Ltd in Switzerland. His work is focused on life cycle assessments and communicating the results to individuals and communities. Creating engaging and motivating contents for newsletters, factsheets, website and social/public media are his main target at WWF. Creating scientific studies for companies and public authorities are his main target at ESU-Services. He obtained his MSc in environmental engineering with major in ecological system design, Air Quality Control and Waste Management, and in Soil Protection at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • Meia Wippoo

    Meia Wippoo works as concept designer and educational developer for Waag Society. There, she is closely involved in the programme of the Creative Learning Lab and Future Heritage Lab. Meia is an expert on design thinking, storytelling and behavioural change, and developed educational programs, workshops, and events for a wide variety of subjects and audiences.  

    She worked before as an independent filmmaker, teacher and designer, and has been board member and chairman of the Dutch Film- and Television organisation VERS. 


W. Abrahamse, L. Steg, C. Vlek, and

T. Rothengatter. A review of intervention studies

aimed at household energy conservation. Journal of

environmental psychology, 25(3):273{291, 2005.

E. Amigo, J. Carrillo-de Albornoz, I. Chugur,

A. Corujo, J. Gonzalo, E. Meij, M. de Rijke, and

D. Spina. Overview of replab 2014: author proling

and reputation dimensions for online reputation

management. In International Conference of the

Cross-Language Evaluation Forum for European

Languages, pages 307{322. Springer, 2014.

D. Ariely. Dening Key Behaviours. 2014.

D. Ariely, J. Hreha, and K. Berman. Hacking Human

Nature for Good: A Practical Guide to Changing

Human Behavior. 2014.

J. Berger. Dening Key Behaviours. 2013.

H. Blunck. Computational environmental

ethnography: combining collective sensing and

ethnographic inquiries to advance means for reducing

environmental footprints. In Proceedings of the fourth

international conference on Future energy systems,

pages 87-98. ACM, 2013.

A. Campbell. How cavemen did social media. A

comparative case study of social movement

organisations using Twitter to mobilise on climate

change. PhD thesis, The University of Sydney, 2010.

M. Cheong and V. Lee. Twittering for earth: A study

on the impact of microblogging activism on earth hour

in australia. In Intelligent Information and

Database Systems, pages 114-123. Springer, 2010.

A. Corner, E. Markowitz, and N. Pidgeon. Public

engagement with climate change: the role of human

values. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate

Change, 5(3):411{422, 2014.

H. Cunningham. GATE, a General Architecture for

Text Engineering. Computers and the Humanities,

:223{254, 2002.

A. Darnton. Behaviour change knowledge

review{reference report. Andrew Darnton for the

Government Social Research Unit, 2008.

N. Eyal. Hooked: How to build habit-forming products.

Penguin Canada, 2014.

M. Fernandez, G. Burel, H. Alani, L. S. G. Piccolo,

C. Meili, and R. Hess. Analysing engagement towards

the 2014 earth hour campaign in twitter. 2015.

M. Fernandez, L. S. Piccolo, D. Maynard, M. Wippoo,

C. Meili, and H. Alani. Talking climate change via

social media: communication, engagement and

behaviour. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference

on Web Science, pages 85-94. ACM, 2016.

B. J. Fogg, 2003.

J. Froehlich, L. Findlater, and J. Landay. The design

of eco-feedback technology. In Proceedings of the

SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing

Systems, pages 1999{2008. ACM, 2010.

E. Kazakova. Environmental campaign construction

and symbolism. 2009.

C. Kormos and R. Giord. The validity of self-report

measures of proenvironmental behavior: A

meta-analytic review. Journal of Environmental

Psychology, 40:359{371, 2014.

D. Maynard and K. Bontcheva. Understanding climate

change tweets: an open source toolkit for social media.

In Proceedings of EnviroInfo, Copenhagen, Denmark,

L. S. Piccolo and H. Alani. Perceptions and behaviour

towards climate change and energy savings.

Copenhagen, Denmark, 2015. EnviroInfo and ICT4S

: Building the Knowledge Base for Environmental

Action and Sustainability.

J. Proskurnia, R. Mavlyutov, R. Prokofyev, K. Aberer,

and P. Cudre-Mauroux. Analyzing large-scale public

campaigns on twitter. In International Conference on

Social Informatics, pages 225{243. Springer, 2016.

L. Robinson. Doors. an integrated theory of behaviour

change. 5.

E. M. Rogers. Elements of diusion. Diusion of

innovations, 5:1-38, 2003.

Science and T. Committee. Communicating climate

change. Technical report, House of Commons, 2014.


C. Shaw, A. Corner, J. Clarke, and O. Roberts. Are

we engaged? un climate talks and the uk public.

Technical report, Climate Outreach, 2015.

G. Vaynerchuk. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Harper

Collins, 2013.

L. Whitmarsh, I. Lorenzoni, and S. O'Neill. Engaging

the public with climate change: Behaviour change and

communication. Routledge, 2012.