Established in 1988, the Georgia Tree Council (GTC) is an environmental nonprofit with a goal of ensuring that every Georgia community experiences the benefits of healthy trees and a strong community forestry program. GTC offers a variety of programs, including workshops and arborist certification classes. Through grant funding, GTC set up the American Grove program, an online community of tree enthusiasts across the country that boasts more than 4,500 members.
Building a Social Network for Forest Fans
Georgia Tree Council wanted to create a social network for people who are passionate about trees—particularly, trees in their community. Their target audience included members of nonprofit and community tree planting groups, individuals with basic questions about trees in their community, and consumers interested in sustainability and environmentalism.
GTC worked with us to build the social network platform itself. Our goal was to design a site that would connect target audiences with tree professionals and help communities better understand the benefits of trees, including tree planting and care for the forests near their homes and neighborhoods.
Designing a Place to Connect
While this project was a co-partnership between GTC and the Georgia Forestry Commission, which focused primarily on the state’s community forests, they wanted to look beyond their state’s borders for this effort. By creating the American Grove network, they would share their love of forestry with the entire country.
After meeting with their leadership team, we realized this project would allow us to create a miniature social network where people could connect, share photos, share their experiences planting trees, and ask for advice. Our task was to take the raw materials for a social platform—what started as a basic message board—and create a standalone website that allowed communities to form online.
Our task was to take the raw materials for a social platform—what started as a basic message board—and create a standalone website that allowed communities to form online.
Deepening an Audience Relationship
Designing and launching a new social media network allowed GTC to go beyond the typical relationship that many nonprofits have with their supporters. We created American Grove to drive a deeper connection between communities, their trees, and GTC as an organization.
Our main focus on this project was building and maintaining the American Grove social network. We understood that the site needed to function similar to online communities that users already knew while still providing fresh and insightful content. Functionality like comments, sharing, and file uploading needed to be seamless and easy to use for both users and site moderators.
In addition to the technical lift, we wanted to ensure that American Grove was a repository of useful, actionable information about forestry, conservation, and regional trees. We supported GTC as they launched their popular Great American Tree competition, and we created monthly SEO-friendly content about trees and forests nationwide.