Last week, a couple of my colleagues and I had the chance to attend the International Healthcare Social Media Summit. We, along with over 150 people worldwide, joined the summit online via a livestream.
Hosted by GlobalHealthPR and convened at Spectrum Science in Washington, DC, the summit brought together social media and health communication experts and enthusiasts. The summit presented findings from social media research conducted around the topic of malaria – what the current social media landscape on malaria looked like and how to get people online talking about malaria.
Before presenting the findings, GlobalHealthPR shared some interesting statistics on the growing use of social media and, shed some light on the growing importance of social media in developing countries. Most of us are already aware that at least one quarter of American adults use social media when seeking health information, but in Portugal, approximately 28% of people use the internet to search for health information. In India, about 45,000 people are joining social media networks daily, and in Mexico, the fasting growing sector of social media users are women over age 40!
GlobalHealthPR then introduced its social framework, which emphasizes the importance of “smart listening” to understand why people engage in social media and what value it adds, otherwise known as the “personal engagement proposition.” The framework also highlights that listening is part of an ongoing feedback loop to refine messages and engagement strategies. In addition, the social media principles (understand, add lots of value, leverage unique insights, and be open-minded) should be applied when considering and developing social media programs.
One unique insight that really hit me was the discussion of the fatalistic view of malaria and that this devastating disease is commonly seen as the common cold or flu, an illness that is inevitable. In fact, the study found that in high prevalent areas, malaria is seen as such and hence, social media interactions around the topic of malaria also reflect this view. In low malaria prevalent areas, the discussion on malaria is not social; the conversation revolves more around its science and disease epidemiology. In order to establish a personal engaging proposition on the topic of malaria, the team suggested giving malaria personal relevance, encouraging experiences with malaria in the social space (creating personal stories is how I like to think about it), and establishing a sense of urgency (i.e. we need to take action now).
They were only able to arrive at these conclusions by engaging in smart listening. Sometimes, in order to be sure that you are engaging in smart listening, connecting with experts gives a sense of what keywords or “buzz” words to listen out for. So it’s important to be prepared to listen multiple times, even if that means listening in the physical space and then using what you’ve learned to better listen in the online space.
In the end, we realize that social media is just a tool to do what we’ve been doing for years, including advocating for a certain cause or getting people to change their behavior. We just need to ensure that we practice smart listening when considering social media conversations.
The video of the summit and the presentation slides are available for viewing online. Check them out here.