Clay Shirky writes “Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” Before your public health organization adopts every type of social media in existence, first identify its goals. What do you want your program to achieve? Once this is clear then choose the appropriate social media. Heather Mansfield, author of Social Media for Social Good, suggests measuring your progress using tracking tools like your Bit.ly or Ow.ly to learn what works and what doesn’t, make adjustments, and repeat as necessary. And it will be necessary. Not to worry. That is part of the process. The more you engage with social media, the more you will learn and get out of it.
Microblogging sites such as Twitter have seen an increase in users year over year (Social Media Update 2014). Twitter has been used in whole range of purposes from making jokes to saving lives.
Here are some effective uses of microblogging and examples of how they promote public health.
Emergency Preparedness and Response
CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response has its own Twitter account to help US residents plan and prepare for all sorts of adverse events. It’s summer so recently CDC Emergency has tweeted advice about how to prepare for seasonal threats like tornadoes, heat stroke, and wildfires. CDCs goals are to decrease negative impact on health as well as reduce emergency care for preventable events freeing up medical personnel for more urgent matters.
Twitter can also be used to decrease emergency response times. In 2013, news of the Boston marathon bombings spread faster on Twitter than through traditional news outlets. As a result, hospitals and medical workers were able to prepare and respond faster than if they waited to receive the news through traditional media outlets.
The prevalence of mental illness is higher in military personnel and veterans than in civilians. Nurses at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society have developed an innovative strategy of using Twitter and other social media to provide mental healthcare to veterans. Nurses follow patients on Twitter and then remain on the lookout for dark tweets. Vigilant medical workers can intervene immediately by calling a patient or stopping by their house to chat. Sometimes the best interventions are not medical but social. Medical personnel are leveraging social media to monitor patients and implement social interventions as a form of treatment.
Exhibit New Technology
Organizations can keep customers and the general public up to date on product development and release. Health and social organizations can take a page from Apple’s marketing playbook and create a demand for their products and services. EnChroma developed and is now selling glasses that allow colorblind people to see color! Check out one of their customers recent tweets below. EnChroma actually retweeted this video on their site too, which is a smart move because it adds variety to their content.
Last Sunday was AIDS Walk San Francisco. It is well organized and well attended but this doesn’t happen by chance. The success of the event is attributable to a well oiled social marketing campaign. Organizers use Twitter before, during, and after the event keep things running smoothly. Prior to the AIDS Walk, organizers build awareness about their cause and promote the upcoming event. Participants and organizers share their experiences, pictures, and videos throughout the day. Afterwards, organizers thank participants, spotlight sponsors, and announce fundraising milestones.
No matter how you use microblogging, Heather Mansfield writes “your ultimate goal should be to inspire action and reaction from your followers.” Responses can include anything from reading your tweet or clicking a link in your tweet, to retweeting your message to their followers, donating, or participating in your events.