When I switched my Facebook status from “In a relationship” to “Engaged”, my newsfeed immediately filled with ads for wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, venues, photography, and more! What surprised me most about the ads were how well they were targeted to what I needed and my style preferences…and how those tailored ads then started showing up on other sites that were linked to my Facebook account. Pinterest was one where the targeted ads (also known as suggested or sponsored pins) were spot on and it was easy to see the feedback loop. Pin a pin they suggested and they now have more data on you to suggest more relevant pins, which gives them more data, ad infinitum.
The “Small World” networks that you join are a source for a lot this information for advertisements. Most people have a small number of connections, but there are very few degrees of separation between networks. This is usually accomplished by people with a lot of connections who connect various groups with different interests (or rather connect individuals within the groups). Since people who connect usually have shared interests, you can gather this information and a good target audience. Shirky mentions this a bit in the book, Here Comes Everybody.
How can this be helpful to public health practitioners who want to promote health?
I think to answer that question, we should talk about the old model of advertising and how that is different. Advertising used to be about getting the message out to EVERYONE and getting a small percentage of those people (like seriously small) to convert to a purchase/behavior change/etc. With the rise of metadata and how much is shared online these days, the new model is to highly target those who are MOST LIKELY to convert on advertisements and focus advertising on those people. This was very effective for several companies whose advertisements I saw after I became engaged. I didn’t think that I would be one to click on Facebook or Pinterest advertisements, (I still haven’t had a relevant Instagram ad, though I’ve been seeing more ads more often) but when I saw the products and realized how perfect they were, I converted to a sale.
We can use this in public health to make sure we are targeting our ads properly to those who are most likely to benefit from them. We don’t want to waste money and advertise smoking cessation programs to people who don’t smoke. That money is much more effective if we try and target people who are already trying to quit smoking- maybe they have a Pinterest board with motivators, or they’re part of a Facebook support group. Those are the people public health practitioners should try and target- and their networks.
How do we do this effectively?
I think the keys for sharing multimedia in health are the same general rules for an online presence. Make sure you TAG your posts so they are easily searchable and discoverable by those who may not already know about your organization. Make sure there is consistency across your social media platforms- your Vimeo, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. should all have the same avatars and logos so users can recognize your brand. Make sure you give users a chance to give feedback on your photos or videos- don’t turn off commenting functions for fear of trolls. By letting the users engage on the posts you can see what interests them and you may learn some new things. Make sure you connect to other users on the platforms in an appropriate fashion- don’t spam them but also make sure you aren’t too exclusive in who you follow. And finally, make it easy for your followers to share your multimedia posts- make it easy for them to re-pin, for them to share your video, etc!