Gone are the days of only using television PSAs, bus wraps, and brochures to market to a target audience. Marketers have known for years that digital media and specifically social media are the tools of choice for reaching consumers.
But why are some folks in public health and safety hesitant to make the investment? The goal of our partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and all public health practitioners—is to provide resources that support the public in making positive health choices. Social media allows the opportunity to reach millions of people with even just a modest investment.
The world needs accurate science and data
Whether intentionally looking for news online or just happening upon it, 62 percent of U.S. adults get their news on social media according to Pew Research Center’s “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016” study. By regularly sharing valuable data, resources, and graphics, public health account holders can reach a mother who is looking for information on the safety of vaccines or a young adult who is unsure how to locate STD testing.
Social media platforms need a public health presence to continuously present facts to a public that consumes information 24 hours a day. It takes only a matter of minutes for a shared story or post to become viral. According to researchers in a study published by the Nature Human Behaviour journal in June 2017, “even the most discerning users can be tricked, thanks to three main factors: the enormous amount of information out there; the limited amount of time and attention people can devote to scrolling through their news feeds and choosing what to share; and the structure of the underlying social networks.” Channel your inner nerd and take a look at the science behind how posts go viral from the Scientific American.
Public health = meeting people where they are
One of the key components of public health is the idea of meeting people where they are, both in location and from a psychological standpoint. People are creatures of habit and enjoy convenience. Nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media sites according to Pew, with usage of Facebook being the greatest. This is great news for public health and safety organizations that have critical information and resources to share; it opens another avenue to impact partners, policymakers, and the public. Meeting people where they are means keeping up with the changing technology that we all use to communicate daily.
Social media is a big undertaking, but the time spent creating content and managing platforms is well worth the effort. Even organic content can result in a sizable number of shares and clicks—a great win for public health practitioners who aim to get their materials into the hands of people and organizations who will use them. A great example of this is our strategic work with ICF on a contract for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (@CDCInjury). The tweet below on the topic of concussion symptoms organically received 31,577 impressions and 563 total engagements and demonstrates naturally high performing content.
This isn’t to say that any content posted on social media will take off like wildfire every time; it requires a dedicated employee or in some cases a team of staff members to consider things like audience preference, the right time of day, appealing graphics, and more.
A small investment can result in a great ROI
Simply staying current and engaging on social media platforms is half the battle. Fortunately, built in advertising features allow users to focus on key audiences with a relatively low cost per action.
When shared in 2015, the above tweet received 3,886 impressions and 25 engagements. However, when we boosted the tweet in 2017, the tweet received 83,621 impressions and 4,317 engagements for one audience and 44,353 impressions and 2,362 engagements for a secondary audience. The numbers show a steep increase for a small investment. Social media advertising can help ensure content reaches the right people—and more people than it would have organically.
If you’re considering sprucing up visuals for social media platforms, try testing out current images in comparison with your fresh look. ICF recommended image templates to help streamline image creation and alongside our design team, we were able to create an attractive look for templates to display diverse content. We helped garner new interest in repurposed content by creating a less busy design, which helped achieve several thousand more impressions when tested.
If you’re considering starting social media for the first time or looking to expand your current efforts, keep in mind that gains might happen slowly. Public health and safety organizations should take advantage of the eager eyes of users who consume online content each day. With so much clutter out there, it is more important than ever to stay on the public’s mind as they sift through competing messages.