John Oberg at Barn Sanctuary [photo by @apaigephotography]
I went vegan in 2009 and immediately got involved with animal activism. I dipped my toes in all kinds of animal advocacy, from showing people factory farming videos on a tablet on street corners to giving out free samples of vegan food to handing out vegan pamphlets on college campuses. I loved this newfound passion of mine. Nothing felt more satisfying than having a single interaction with someone that I knew could lead to real changes that would save tons of animals. The exponential growth of change that could be sparked as a result of animal advocacy was just amazing to me. Little did I know where that passion would ultimately lead me.
In 2009, social media was sort of in its infancy. MySpace and Facebook were the big players then, with MySpace on a slow decline and Facebook experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity. In those days, social media was reserved for interacting almost exclusively with your friends, family, and maybe your colleagues. There wasn’t much of a public presence of influencers or individuals speaking outwardly to the world. Communication was much more internal. Over the next several years, that would change, and platforms like Twitter, with its very public-facing presence became increasingly popular.
In May 2009, I joined Twitter. I basically never tweeted, but claimed my username (just my name, @JohnOberg), uploaded a profile picture, and pretty much left it dormant for a few years. As my passion for animal advocacy and quest to make as much of an impact as possible took off, I looked to make connections in the animal advocacy movement and to influence other vegans and get them inspired to take part in activism. I recognized that social media could help me achieve these goals.
As I started using social media more, I started to realize the huge potential. I realized that I could use these digital platforms to not just supplement the work I was already doing in the physical world, but perhaps to make an even bigger impact in the digital realm.
In 2012, I entered full-time animal advocacy. I was hired by Vegan Outreach to travel around North America going from college to college handing out pamphlets that talked about how animals were being treated on factory farms and the benefits of vegan eating. I loved this work and found it to be incredibly meaningful. At the end of every day, whether I was in Iowa, British Columbia, or Oklahoma, I felt like I had made a positive impact for animals that day. I heard all the time from people who had received a pamphlet a previous semester or even earlier that same day who had been moved by the information. Moved so much that they were changing the way they ate and lived.
In 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to take over the social media for Vegan Outreach. My passion had been leafleting, not social media activism, so I was reluctant but agreed to take it on as the new Director of Communications for the organization. I very quickly realized, however, that I could make a HUGE impact for animals here. By using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, I could reach dozens or even hundreds of times the number of individuals I could reach in person-to-person outreach on streets or college campuses. Even though it was from behind a computer or phone screen, the impact was absolutely there. For context, in one 12-month span of leafleting, I handed out 250,000 leaflets, which was considered a lot for that time frame. When I started running the social media for Vegan Outreach, I would reach 250,000 people almost every single day!
Why does this matter? Well, you may be vegan yourself because of something you saw online or in a documentary about the world that animals endure. When you get others to see this content, you are inspiring them to make changes that help animals. At the very least, even if you don’t turn someone vegan instantly, you are helping to chip away at the walls they have up and to be more open to the idea of eating and living in a way that is compassionate towards animals.
For the last seven years, I’ve focused the vast majority of my animal advocacy in the social media realm. In that time, tweets and posts of mine have been seen over one billion times. Not counting for repeats, about one in six people in the world have seen something that I’ve posted about animals to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Two and a half years ago, I left my job to pursue full-time animal advocacy completely independently. Part of my efforts over the last 28 months has been to empower animal advocates to utilize social media and help way more animals than they otherwise would. I’ve spoken at conferences, conducted webinars, and posted videos to my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts about how to be a better animal advocate on social media. None of this even comes close, however, to what I’ve recently put out into the world.
Over the course of about six months, I worked tirelessly to create an in-depth, comprehensive online course called “Mastering Twitter to Change the World.” It’s the best thing I’ve ever created as an animal advocate. Alongside Advocacy Collaborative, who is hosting the course at AdvocacyCollab.com, we created a course that will take any animal advocate and turn them into an absolute expert who will use Twitter to create real change for animals. This is the greatest contribution I’ve ever provided to this animal advocacy movement and I’m incredibly excited about the fact that many animal advocates will now be able to help so many more animals by using Twitter more effectively. Enroll in my course now and watch for my upcoming courses on mastering Instagram and Facebook!