The Digital Health Communication Extravaganza conference was held last month in Orlando, Florida, bringing together health and communications professionals from across the public, private and academic sector. Health communications was the focus of the conference with an emphasis on social media and mobile technology.
With all of the different social media platforms and campaigns, success and effective communication remain difficult to quantify. This theme emerged in the workshops preceding the conference, with a conversation led by the FDA Center for Tobacco Products on the measurement of social media.
There are no easy answers when it comes to measuring what works in social media, no numbers that simply convert to return on investment, especially in the context of public health. Well-defined and measurable goals go a long way in the creation of a successful strategy, but it seems that listening, not just engaging, was at the heart of the most dynamic moments in social media over the past year – the ability to capitalize on a secondary or tertiary topic to create relevance and connection to a broader message.
Success in digital media comes through building communities and conversations, not through retweets or likes. Both Craig LeFebvre and Vic Strecher focused on where behavior change begins and emphasized that knowledge of healthy behaviors is a piece and not the only determining factor in creating meaningful behavior change. Awareness campaigns are important, because of the communities they can create. Our peers and our own communities have a significant impact on our healthy choices, in addition to our own knowledge of the best behaviors and habits.
Sekou Andrews said it best with his own spoken word performance at the end of the first day: “Listen with your R&D, but respond with your heart and soul.” Social communities are built through authentic human connections. At AIDS.gov, the Facing AIDS campaign and other awareness events have been built by the community. The individual stories that are shared have inspired the participation and connection.
DHCX challenged all health communicators to rethink their own methodology and metrics for success.