Social media ad stories are widely used to grow engagement in wildlife conservation. Yet the benefits of different types of story character and content are unclear. In four video stories, we explored the impact of varying the type of protagonist species (Elephant and WildDog) and content about the role of humans in causing wildlife loss (Elephant + HumanAction and WildDog + HumanAction) using Facebook A/B split tests. Counter to prior perceptions that traditional charismatic flagships are more appealing, stories featuring wild dogs—with and without human-caused harm—elicited higher traffic to a conservation organization’s donation website. Only the Elephant video elicited one donation. These results show that storytelling in social media ads, by choosing character and content, can help raise engagement. Yet the failure to raise funds and limitations arising from Facebook’s opaque algorithms, underscores the need for greater experimentation to build knowledge about how to convert engagement into donations.

Shreedhar, G. (2021).  Evaluating the impact of storytelling in Facebook advertisements on wildlife conservation engagement: Lessons and challenges. Conservation Science and Practice, e534.

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