Using Social Media for Health Research Advocacy
“Canada has one of the most connected populations in the world. For many Canadians, social media is now a part of their daily routine.”
—Ryerson Social Media Lab
During the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign, Candidates and their political parties will be making the most of social media to engage with Canadians. By joining in this conversation, Canadian health research organizations can have a huge impact on raising awareness about the importance of Canadian health research and health innovation.
Social media is a powerful tool to advocate for health research. And like any good tool, it works the best when you use it properly. The following tips will help ensure that your use of social media is effective and successful.
Tip #1: Remember that social media is a conversation, not a monologue
Your use of social media should be clearly focused on raising awareness about key issues in creative and engaging ways that are personal, visual, conversational and persistent without being repetitive or tiresome.
Tip #2: Be strategic
- What are your advocacy objectives? Before you even think about a social media strategy you need to be clear about your advocacy messages. Are you calling for specific actions to improve the health research that will benefit Canadians? Check in with your staff and key stakeholders for their input and to ensure their support.
- What is your story? Think about engaging and interesting ways to get your messages across in the social media context. Remember this may be different than how you promote your message though other channels such as the mainstream media.
- Who is your audience? Be clear on who you want to engage in the conversation and what social media platforms they use (Chart 1). You can choose to speak directly to candidates through social media, but it is also important to encourage voters to advocate on your behalf.
Tip #3: Create compelling “share-worthy” messages and materials
- Make sure your audience will notice your posts and respond to them. It will be important that your posts are shared by those who will resonate with your message.
- Your posts are more likely to be shared if they include personal stories, important facts and data, inspirational quotes, or breaking news.
- High-quality photos and images are critical and so are concise, well-crafted key messages no more than 40 characters long.
Tip #4: Understand the differences in social media platforms
Most online adult Canadians (94%) use at least one social media platform, but gender, age and income influence what platforms they choose. Facebook is the most popular followed by YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Consider starting with one or two social media platforms that you are most comfortable with.
|Source: Ryerson Social Media Lab|
Key tips for all social media platforms
- Post often on different days of the week and at different times of day, but don’t post too often or you won’t be noticed.
- Interact with your audience. Respond to comments and thank those who share your message. Ask your followers to share messages to their candidates
- Engage with candidates – tweet messages, thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
- Follow other social media users you would like to have follow you – news reporters and outlets, bloggers, etc.
- Follow relevant health organizations and other campaigns with large lists of followers and access to key decision-makers and stakeholders.
- Follow news sites, check blogs and pay attention to what campaigners and political parties are saying in social media. Support them when their messages are in synch with yours.
- Use shared hashtags that your stakeholders and others are using.
- Track your results and see what resonates.