How to build supportive Facebook communities for better health behaviours
If you think Facebook’s just a social network, you’re right! But you might also be underestimating its power in influencing behaviours… for good.
For many people and organisations, Facebook is a means to share – to share opinions, stories, images, video, events, just about anything. And as our online social networks grow these “posts” and the interactions on them carry power, particularly to shift our thinking, and even behaviour.
People who influence our lives, even friends and family, can today reach us more on social media than in person.
Over the past five years, we’ve been working on how we can leverage the approaches of community-based social marketing, online. Here’s what we’ve learnt:
- The power of social media isn’t campaign-based. While campaign advertisements might gain traction in the short term, highly-targeted content builds longer lasting engagement, and therefore more potential for sustained behaviour change. Using Facebook to build a trusted community, where people feel comfortable supporting each other and offering advice and tips to one another, creates a community-driven and moderated platform that can continue to influence without significant cost.
- Facebook’s power leverages the existence of peer, family and community networks “online” who predominantly share and interact with pages and posts that feature people they know. When the community sees family, friends, peers, elders, leaders and locals sharing messages, the message is real. Avoiding the use of “talent” keeps content genuine.
- With no geographic boundary or physical requirement to “catch up” in order to hear a message from family, friends, peers, role models and people in our communities, people’s thinking, attitudes and behaviours can be influenced at any time and from anywhere over social media.
- It’s live! Therefore, we can use prompts and reminders at specific points in time, such as encouraging engagement and targeting particular messages at different times of year. This might be, for example, when when people might be feeling more stressed and need more encouragement to maintain their behaviour.
- When we bring place-based engagement and events to the online space, it increases engagement. Talking to people in the community and then having a well thought-out plan for how this content can be used, when and for who, is essential.
- A Facebook page offers a place where a community can celebrate and share an individual’s change or achievement – e.g. stopping smoking, starting to exercise, reducing one’s use of plastic etc – as well as collective, community achievements – e.g. ‘keeping our town smoke-free’, park runs, ‘plastic free’ communities.
We believe that now, more than ever, a positive community online supporting each other is critical to influencing behaviour.
How we shape content to influence behaviours using Facebook
While Facebook as a channel has great potential for influencing attitudes and behaviours, there are also some downsides when content is not done well. What we hear and do on Facebook can have a huge influence on our own and others attitudes and behaviours. It’s important to remember everyone in a Facebook page community can influence others so a positive tone and community-driven approach is key to generating a supportive environment.
As we implement social marketing via Facebook, the Social Deck has created a unique content calendar system. The content calendar allows us to strategically plan posts and messages with our partners and clients using an intentional mix of social marketing tactics targeted to specific audiences.
This helps us to avoid generic content and commentary, and ensures the content itself is able to carefully nudge, empower and influence, when appropriate, the behaviours we’re looking to change.
We do this by mapping content every quarter in an intentional way, by selecting:
- our Target audience.
- the Type of engagement intended – e.g. Awareness, Call to Action
- the Social marketing tool – e.g. commitment, social diffusion, a prompt, or social norm.
To find out more about our content calendar system, or to chat about how we can help you influence behaviours through a cost-effective and integrated social marketing presence on Facebook, get in touch with Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org