Vegan Advocacy: Winning Hearts and Minds, not Arguments and Debates: Part I of III

Strategy is key when it comes to engaging with people - you need to communicate your message effectively, especially to non-vegans.

John Oberg

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The one who gets the last word. The winner of the argument. The person who gets blocked for calling the other person an 'animal murderer' one too many times.

For many vegans in their early days of plant-based living - a.k.a. the 'Angry Vegan' stage - these are achievements to be proud of. It's only after one carefully starts to weigh the pros and cons of their behavior do they realize that maybe they cut that stranger on the internet a little too deep. Or perhaps comparing a Facebook friend's eating habits to mass murder was a comparison best left unsaid.

For new vegans, it's going to take time before you realize that it’s best to bite your tongue at times, and to approach situations with an open heart, not an accusatory pointed finger. I know that it took me months of bickering with my friends (and alienating myself in the process) before I realized that the more effective way to communicate the vegan message is to do it subtly, and to do it peacefully.

John Oberg with a cow
Creating change is more important than winning debates (Photo: John Oberg)

Becoming an effective activist on social media is two-fold. The first part is simply engaging in the nitty-gritty, effective tactics that will lead you to multiplying your follower count, getting more engagement, and extending the reach of your content exponentially. We'll get to that later in this writing series. The second part to remember, which I'll be covering now and for the next few pieces, is that you need to communicate your message effectively. Especially to non-vegans.

When I first stopped eating animals, I didn't think strategically when communicating with others. I thought emotionally and I engaged in behavior that made me feel good. Unfortunately, I learned that I was good at winning arguments, but poor at creating the change I so desperately wanted to create. Today, I recognize that effective vegan advocacy is about winning hearts and minds, not arguments and debates - both on social media and in the real world.

There are few vegans in this world, and even fewer vegan activists. Therefore, the responsibility we bear to be good stewards of this lifestyle is a great one. We are always presented with an opportunity cost on social media. When we choose to do or say something, we're choosing not to do or say something else. Therefore, it's important to use our limited social media real estate to be the best communicators we can be. Animals are depending on it.

John Oberg

John Oberg is a social media pro, dedicated to making the world a kinder place for animals by utilizing the power of social media. He recently launched his own independent project for animals through Patreon. Prior to that, he served as Director of New Media for the international animal protection organization, The Humane League. And prior to that, John served as Director of Communications for Vegan Outreach. In both of these roles, John oversaw social media for the organizations which led to a tenfold increase in following in both, as well as over 1 billion views of content posted to these pages.


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