Photo: Tom Goskar (CC)
By now you’ve probably been inundated with emails and articles urging you to keep your New Year’s resolutions. But for social marketers, the need for creating behavior change—whether your own or that of your priority populations—is year-round.
Here are some tips from a social marketing perspective for ways you can build support for long-term behavioral shifts into your programs, that can also work in your own life (bonus!).
1) Set and track goals
Know what specific behavior you’re trying to change. Rather than just saying you want people to “lose weight,” make the plan more concrete: Eat 6 servings of vegetables every day. Have protein as a snack rather than carbs. Go for a 30 minute walk every morning at 8 am. Offering ways to track progress will provide a feedback loop that continues to motivate as success breeds success.
2) Create habits through behavioral triggers
The more automatic we can make the desired behaviors, the less we have to rely on willpower alone to do the job (which is often not a very hard worker!). Habits arise when something triggers us to take an action – it could be when we’re doing something else (e.g., eating while watching TV), when we feel a specific emotion (e.g., checking Facebook when we feel bored), or when we get a reminder (e.g., the 6 o’clock news comes on and we realize it’s time to make dinner).
Find a regular event that you can link the desired behavior to, such as making a healthy lunch for work the next day right after you finish dinner. Or use reminders like a sticky note on your bathroom mirror helping you remember to floss your teeth when you’re in the right place at the right time.
3) Design the environment for success
Create a situation that enables the desired behavior and makes it hard to veer off the chosen path. This could involve limiting the choices available (e.g., only buying foods that fit healthy guidelines), getting prepared in advance before decisions are made in the heat of the moment (e.g., setting up an automatic monthly transfer of a portion of your salary to a savings account), or surrounding yourself with reminders of your ultimate goal (e.g., taping a picture of your kids onto your cigarette box to help you remember why you want to quit).
These tips are just a few of the ways that a social marketing perspective can help you help your community to become healthier or better off. Behavioral science insights can be applied to your New Year’s resolutions as well as creating positive change throughout the year!
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Weinreich Communications, I’m thrilled to share with you a new ebook I created to help social impact professionals get started using social marketing in their programs. This free 22-page publication is designed to inspire those working in nonprofits or the public sector, and others seeking to create health and social change in their communities, to use the effective, systematic social marketing approach.
Even if you’re already a social marketing pro, I hope you’ll download the ebook to share with your colleagues or clients who may not be as familiar with how marketing can be used to create social impact. It lays out the key principles of social marketing, provides lots of resources and has a section for those who are considering social marketing as a career. Please help me spread the word about social marketing and let me know what you think about the ebook. Thanks!
Think you need to do an awareness campaign? Think again. I talk about this common pitfall and more in my latest video:
If the video inspires you to learn more about how to use social marketing to make your program more effective, I have a new webinar series coming up! The Hands-On Social Marketing webinar series starts January 11th, and will focus on the social marketing process, audience research and segmentation, behavior change strategies and social marketing evaluation. Webinar #1: Social Marketing Step-by-Step Tues, January 11, 2011, 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST / 7:00 pm GMT This 60-minute webinar lays out the process of developing an effective social marketing program by following six key steps. Following this clear process, you will ensure that your program is developed and implemented systematically and strategically. Webinar #2: Understanding and Segmenting Your Audience Tues, January 25, 2011, 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST / 7:00 pm GMT This 60-minute webinar will discuss how to select the target audience(s) you will address with your social marketing program and the various types of research methods you can use to understand what motivates them. Webinar #3: Behavior Change Tricks of the Trade Tues, February 8, 2011, 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST / 7:00 pm GMT This 60-minute webinar presents an assortment of methods you can draw from to help your audience adopt positive or healthy behaviors. We’ll discuss various behavior change theories, the use of fear appeals, the design approach and more. Webinar #4: Real-World Social Marketing Research and Evaluation Tues, February 22, 2011, 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST / 7:00 pm GMT This 60-minute webinar focuses on how to conduct research to plan and evaluate your social marketing program. While many feel evaluation is the most challenging part of social marketing, this webinar will give you the confidence to tackle a design for your program. Archived webinars from previous series on social marketing fundamentals and social media are also available. For more information and to register, just go to Social Marketing University Online.
Lately, I’ve been talking about transmedia storytelling to whoever will listen. If you’re not familiar with this approach, transmedia refers to a story that is told on multiple media platforms, with different parts of the story appearing in different places. The readers/viewers may enter the story at various points, and may need to solve puzzles or follow clues to discover the different nodes of the story. Transmedia is different from multimedia, which would be a retelling of the same story told using different media (e.g., a movie, a graphic novel, an audiobook). Beyond using transmedia for the sheer joy of telling a story, this approach is now often used to promote television shows and movies, as well as marketing products. Want to try out a quick example of a transmedia story in action? No Mimes Media has created a 10-minute alternate reality game (ARG) you can experience online. (Hint: Look for clues to get to each of the next parts of the story and keep your phone nearby.)
Why Use Transmedia in Social Marketing?
For all the reasons that the entertainment education approach works to change knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, transmedia storytelling has the potential to match and exceed that success. Entertainment education-based social marketing has traditionally focused on “product placement” of health and social issues within the plotlines of television shows, radio serials, movies, video games and other individual media. When someone is wrapped up in the plotline of a show and their favorite character becomes sick or models a positive behavior, that person is more likely to remember information delivered in the course of the program and desire to act on it.
In a transmedia story, you are immersed in the plotline either as the main character or as you get to know the characters and their world from many different angles. Often, transmedia stories are told in real-time, with the characters posting to their Twitter accounts, writing blog posts and creating YouTube videos. They may come to feel like friends, especially if the audience is encouraged to interact with the characters. This type of immersive experience can make a strong impression on knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of social norms, and can motivate action.
What Might Have Been
Transmedia is one of those things more easily understood with a tangible example, so I spent some time thinking about how I might structure a campaign. I remembered that a couple of years ago, as part of the Great California ShakeOut (a statewide earthquake drill), the event included a simulation game called After Shock that did not quite live up to its great potential. The idea was that during and after the earthquake drill, participants would use blogs, Twitter, video, photos and more to document what happened to them personally during the “earthquake” and how they were dealing with the aftermath. It was a fun, exciting idea, and I played along, startling my Twitter friends and posting to the blog on my account at the site. Many others did as well, with blog posts, photos of “earthquake rubble,” and other creative stories that showed they had thought through the implications of how an earthquake would impact their lives. Unfortunately, there was not much direction from the coordinators as to what we were supposed to do, and participation fizzled. (At least from my viewpoint, I didn’t see much happening on the site and did not receive any clear instructions to help me continue.)
What’s Shakin’? Earthquake Preparedness Transmedia Campaign
I’ve put together a sample transmedia campaign that addresses the flaws of what After Shock could have been, with the goal of motivating earthquake preparedness in Southern California. I was inspired by Gary Hayes’ transmedia worksheet (below) and the creativity of Luci Temple’s hypothetical transmedia case study based on the television show “V.”
What’s a campaign without objectives? Here are the main ones I’d be shooting for:
- To increase the number of people who know what to do to prepare for an earthquake.
- To increase the number of people who know what to do during and immediately after an earthquake.
- To increase the number of people who believe that being prepared is important and doable.
- To increase the number of people who create a family emergency plan.
- To increase the number of people who have an earthquake/emergency kit in their homes, offices and cars.
- To increase the number of people who take preventive measures to secure their homes to prevent damage during an earthquake.
In transmedia storytelling, the story narrative is often in the background or not visible at all. Designers must write the backstory and timeline, and then identify the “artifacts” (tweets, postcards, YouTube videos, etc.) that the characters create as a result of that story. It’s often up to the participants to piece together exactly what happened, and where they might need to read between the lines.
Here’s the basic narrative of a possible storyline (yes, it’s kind of silly), and afterward we’ll look at how the transmedia campaign could bring it into being:
Shaky McShakerson works in downtown LA as an IT guy in the City’s Bureau of Important Processes. He’s married to Terra McShakerson, who works out of their house in Sherman Oaks as a photographer specializing in doggie fashion. They have two kids – Tembla (4) and Shaker Jr (1).
10:36 am Tuesday morning, a 7.7 earthquake hits LA, centered in Hollywood. Shaky’s at work – he has to help out with the city’s response. Terra is at a doggie fashion shoot in Pasadena. Tembla is at preschool and Shaker Jr. is with Terra’s mother in Van Nuys.
Shaky and Terra can’t connect with each other via phone. They had no plan for emergencies and have no idea what condition their home is in. The immediate aftermath of the earthquake is chaos: a 405 freeway overpass is down, traffic lights are out across the city, they can see smoke from several locations in the distance. Finally they are able to connect with each other via Twitter, but Terra still can’t reach her mom or the preschool.
Shaky is part of the emergency response and is responsible for setting up a blog to keep people informed through official channels. He can’t leave his post downtown, so Terra is on her own.
Terra jumps in the car and tries to move as quickly as she can from Pasadena to Van Nuys. She runs into many roadblocks along the way. Finally she arrives at her mother’s house, which is intact, although several houses on the street have collapsed chimneys and broken windows. She sees that her mother and Shaker Jr are fine, but she needs to get to Tembla. She arrives at the preschool and sees that it is in shambles. Everyone has been evacuated and parents are freaking out looking for their kids. Finally someone remembers to call the emergency out of state phone number that was given at the beginning of the year and they find out that the teachers brought the kids to the elementary school yard down the street. She collects Tembla, who is very upset and traumatized.
She takes the children back home, and discovers that their house did not fare very well. Gas is leaking, and it takes a long time for her to find a wrench and the shut-off valve. The house is full of broken glass, the floor is covered with what had been on the shelves, and the furniture has traveled across the rooms. The electricity is out, and the water does not seem to be working either. Terra sets to work trying to figure out what she needs to do now and how to begin to recover.
The days and weeks that follow include some major aftershocks, anxiety attacks from Tembla, and the realization that they should have been much more prepared. They don’t have enough food, water and medical supplies. The city is not recovering very quickly. The survivalist neighbors who they always thought were crazy for storing months worth of food are the only ones on the block who are doing well. Terra’s best friend Florence is a nurse and shares stories of what she’s seen in the hospital.
Terra and Shaky decide to get prepared for the next disaster and put together their supplies. So when a 6.1 aftershock hits, they are ready and able to deal with it, and get on with their lives without much hassle.
The Transmedia Campaign
1) Billboards will be posted around the city for “Terra’s Doggie Fashion Fotos” including the URL (ads will be so ridiculous that people look for the website to see if it’s a joke). Also, street teams passing out postcards with the same image/URL at gathering places around LA.
2) A website for Terra’s business will include her phone number (with voice mail message) and links to her Facebook page and Twitter account. The text will use earthquake metaphors as clues for what the campaign is about and provide insight into her personality and lifestyle.
3) Terra’s Twitter account will be the main driver of the narrative (with tweets also going to her Facebook page), and here is where we will also meet Shaky and Florence via their accounts. Quite a bit of interaction will have already occurred before the campaign begins. When the earthquake hits, we can see Terra’s panicked response and her attempts to reach her family. She and Shaky reach each other via Twitter. She urges people to call her on her cell if they know anything about her mom and kids.
4) When people call her cell phone number, they’ll hear her message about what she’s seeing on the streets as she’s trying to get to her family and her relief as she arrives at her mother’s house. She uses Twitpic to post pictures of the damage she sees all around.
5) Meanwhile, Shaky is setting up a blog for his city department that provides updates on what’s happening around the city in terms of emergency response, as well as safety information. He invites people to post comments about what happened to them during the earthquake and whether they were prepared. He shares the “official” department website and phone hotline that people can call over the next week for updates.
6) Once back at home, Terra tweets about the challenges they are facing and looks for information on what to do to prevent any further damage. She finds a smartphone app and companion website (created by the campaign) with earthquake preparedness information and shares that information on Twitter.
7) Over the next week, Terra uses Twitter to give updates on what she’s doing to prepare for the next earthquake, and uploads some video to YouTube. She posts information about caring for pets in earthquakes on her business Facebook page. Shaky uses the blog to give tips on preparedness and to invite participants to a live event.
8) The campaign concludes with a live event coinciding with the Great California Shakeout, where Terra and Shaky make an appearance to urge earthquake preparedness (and to take doggy fashion fotos). Those with smartphones will be able to see a simulated aftershock in real time via augmented reality, to reinforce how to respond.
There are many more touchpoints we could add (e.g., TV, radio, live chat, etc.) but this gives you a flavor of how it might all work together. Of course, keep in mind that this approach can only work if members of your target audience are already using most or all of these media. You would need to do research with them to find out what media they use, and what their current knowledge, attitudes and behaviors are, before jumping into creating the campaign.
Some Transmedia Resources (Updated 6/30/10)
My latest area of interest lays in the intersection between games and storytelling. Each approach by itself has great potential for engaging people in a way that more common forms of marketing do not. Whether it’s an alternate reality game like Urgent:EVOKE that challenges players to solve problems in hypothetical, but real-world, scenarios, or the NANOSWARM novel and video game targeting childhood obesity prevention, when people are drawn into the action themselves, they are more likely to be moved to action in real life. See Jane McGonigal’s recent TED talk on how gaming can make a better world for an eloquent introduction to how that might work.
Stories give us the opportunity to see the consequences of actions – both positive and negative. When we “get to know” fictional characters and care about what happens to them, the emotions that are evoked heighten the memorability and learning that can happen at the same time. On a related note, I’m happy to see that, in addition to the efforts of entertainment education professionals who work with television writers and producers to weave health and social issues into series plotlines, NBC Universal network execs are now directing the network’s shows to do “behavior placement” of eco-friendly and health-related issues. Seeing people–whether they are fictional or real–engaging in healthy or pro-social behaviors increases perceptions of social norms and can affect viewers’ attitudes toward the behavior (for better or worse, of course — it depends on how and by whom the action is portrayed).
Throw in game elements in which someone can direct the story and try out what works and what doesn’t, and you have the makings of a vicarious experience that can lead to bigger changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. The Choose Your Own Adventure books of my youth were always fun because they were more than a passive reading experience; what kid wouldn’t want to control the story? I’m enjoying an adult collaborative version of this, ongoing right now, in The Great Game, a serialized story by Tim Dedopulos in which readers get to vote on what happens next.
From a social marketing perspective, this “choose what happens next” approach in an interactive format gives us the opportunity to customize messages and content for each user. The UK’s Drop the Weapons campaign created a YouTube-based interactive series called “Choose a Different Ending.” At the end of each video vignette, the viewer has a decision point where they can choose whether to take a knife, which set of friends to follow, whether to fight, and is taken to the next video based on their choice.
Wahi Media is doing some exciting things with this idea, in a more sophisticated way. “Wahi” stands for “web automated human interaction.” This approach involves a simulated conversation, in which a person or people in a video talk and ask questions of the viewer. Depending on the viewer’s responses, the subsequent videos are tailored to provide messages that directly address their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, as well as collecting the data for later analysis. The newly launched TeenTruth.org site from the Florida Department of Health uses a Wahi to talk to teens, parents and other audiences about the reality of the lives of teenagers. In addition to a direct “conversation,” the site also includes dramatic vignettes in which characters then turn to the camera to ask what you would do or what you think. The branching is seamless, so it feels like a coherent whole.
With these ideas in the back of my mind, I was inspired by a short Choose Your Own Adventure story on Twitter by Jonah Peretti, and Fabio Gratton’s subsequent comment on how the format could be used for health education. I set out to create a demo on Twitter to show how a Choose Your Own Adventure story for social marketing might play out. I focused primarily on traffic safety-related issues, as this genre of spy adventure usually involves people trying to get from one point to another without being caught. But I can think of many different issues that would lend themselves to this type of format: earthquake safety, sexual decision-making, flu prevention, and more. For nonprofits who are more interested in fundraising than behavior change, this format could still provide a way to engage potential donors or members and show why their involvement is needed.
A few caveats…
- Twitter is not the ideal platform to use for this. The 140 character limitation makes it hard to advance the story and make it engaging. Plus, each time you click on a link, it automatically opens a new tab in your browser. I suggest you open the first link in a new window, so you can just close the whole window when you are done.
- This demo was not created for a particular organization. If it were, the “learning pieces” would likely provide more information or links to the organization’s resources for follow-up if desired.
- This is just a quick and dirty demo. When designing a story to meet a project’s behavior change objectives for a specific audience, much more time and strategic thought will go into it, so don’t let the cheesy storyline obscure the format’s potential. Ideally, the story would involve several different media elements, such as videos, mobile phones and puzzle-solving.
All that said, shall we play a game? Start here…