What This Alcoholism Awareness Instagram Campaign Got Very Wrong

Louise.Delage Instagram Feed

Louise.Delage Instagram Feed

What happens when a French agency racks up over 50,000 likes on Instagram for a campaign aimed at raising awareness of alcoholism among young people? Success, right? By creating a fake account for a glamorous young French woman named Louise Delage and posting several photos on Instagram daily, each of which included her holding an alcoholic drink, the “Like My Addiction” campaign for organization Addict Aide hoped to show that it’s not always easy to tell that someone is addicted to alcohol.

At the end of the 2-month campaign, the agency, BETC, revealed that Louise was not real, and shared the purpose of the campaign with their followers. After the reveal, web traffic to Addict Aide’s website spiked to five times normal and numerous media outlets covered the campaign. Clearly the agency knows how to run Instagram campaigns to get attention and gain a following (with more than 16,000 Instagram followers in just a few months). But even they admitted that their important message mostly missed the notice of Louise’s followers.

Many have praised this stealth campaign, but from a behavior change point of view it has many flaws. I do love this kind of social media narrative edutainment, but it was clearly created with no understanding of behavioral science.

Ultimately, this very creative and promising approach was only half a strategy.

A carefully crafted character telling her story via social media can be compelling and draw people in to pay attention. Done right, her online life may feel very real. For the purposes of motivating behavior change, she should either evoke empathetic feelings of “she’s like me”or aspirational thoughts that “I want to be like her.” This they did well.

The problem was that they posted happy (or neutral) pictures of a beautiful young woman with a drink in her hand for two months without depicting any consequences of her alcoholism. There was no indication that she was addicted to alcohol beyond the glasses in her hand, which escaped many people’s notice. If, once they had a critical mass of followers, Louise started posting photos – or including text in her Instagram posts – that hinted at problems in her life resulting from her drinking, the people who were engaging with her would start connecting the dots themselves.

Having the ad agency say “na-na, gotcha!” and explaining their strategy at the end of the campaign is a case of telling, not showing. It takes people out of the narrative and has much less impact than if they saw a realistic depiction of the effects of alcoholism on someone they had started to care about (even if they found out she was not real).

The other big problem with this campaign is that it normalized the behavior they were trying to prevent for two full months. Many of the people who saw images from her account likely did not see the big reveal at the end, and only took from the postings the subconscious connection of alcohol and a glamorous life – the equivalent of free advertising for the alcohol industry. Social media plays a significant role in establishing and reinforcing social norms. We have to be careful in social marketing with the imagery we use; attractive depictions of undesirable behaviors can far outweigh any negative text that accompanies the pictures and the message will backfire.

Entertainment education can be incredibly effective, but it has to be done with an understanding of the behavior change models that work.

Guest Post: Pretty Please…Convincing Your Boss to Take the Plunge into Social Media

Not too long ago, I was providing technical assistance to a staff member at a local health department whose agency was not open to letting her use certain social media tools to engage with their community. I asked my Twitter network for ideas on resources that might help her make the case with a reluctant organization. Dawn Crawford, who is the Communications Director at the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (@ImmunizeCOKids on Twitter) very generously offered to share what she had learned, having been in a similar situation. After she emailed me the information to pass along, I asked her if I could repost it on my blog because it was full of pearls of wisdom that I thought would be useful to others, no matter what type of organization you work for. She wrote it up as a guest post here. Thanks so much, Dawn!

Pretty Please…Convincing Your Boss to Take the Plunge into Social Media

So you want to convince the boss to let you do social media for your organization. It’s something that every one who has ever engaged in social media had to do, at least once. It’s an important step because you do need some solid buy-in on this new communications strategy.

Bosses, Executive Directors, co-workers and all your social media doubters fear one of three things:

  1. Loss of control of message and brand
  2. Mean people will say mean things about you
  3. There isn’t enough time to sustain your engagement

These fears are legitimate, but are also seeded in a lack of understanding of social media. Here are some quick answers to those concerns:

Loss of control – The reality is engaging in social media is one of the best ways to regain control of your message and brand. With all the social media platforms you get to pick your profile picture and determine how you present yourself to your followers. Jumping into social media and securing your brand’s identity – Twitter ID, Facebook vanity URL, blog name – you can stop others from poaching your name.

Meanies – Okay, here is a little secret…people are already saying mean things about you! And if you are not engaged in social media they are, in essence, saying it behind your back to all your friends. By monitoring your brand and organization in social media you can address these meanies and deal with them on a one-on-one basis.

Time management – Time is the ONLY cost of social media, so value it. It is incredibly important to budget time for this communications tool. Take the time to make a plan about when you will engage, what kind of content you’ll share and how often you’ll interact with your followers/fans. This is a critical consideration to your success. Also remember it doesn’t have to control your life or be a priority over your other communications tactics. Just integrate these tools into all the other great stuff you are already doing.

Okay, now that you have three quick comebacks for those initial fears, let’s pile it on. There are reasons why you MUST get engaged in social media. Here is why it’s so important for you to jump in:

Social media IS the next business revolution – It’s just like email; some people hoped email would just go away so we could send faxes forever. Well those people lost (thankfully) and now email is part of every successful business. Social media will be the same way in the coming years. If an organization is not engaged in social media they will look dated, out of touch and will be seen as having bad customer service.

Connect with your community – Being part of social media gives your community (AKA your donors, customers, residents, volunteers, etc.) a portal to ask questions, get information and connect with you on their time and in the method that they want to connect. It’s great to drop into Facebook, check up on your sister’s latest adorable kid photo and find out about your favorite organization. Be where your community is and, trust me, they are using social media.

Increase your traffic to your website – Social media is just one more way to leverage all that money you put into that fancy website. You can tease information from your Facebook or Twitter accounts to go to your website to learn more about your programs.

Embrace controversy – If you do deal with a controversial issue it’s even more important for you to have a presence in social media. In my day job I work as Communications Director for the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC), a pro-vaccine organization. I know controversy first hand. If you are controversial you have so much to say and to defend about your issue. Be brave and jump in the fray, your cause deserves it! For lots more on that check out this blog post.

Get more tasty tidbits for leadership, donors and annual reports – You get so much anecdotal, honest comments, both good and bad, about your organization through your social media connections. Social media allows an organization to make an immediate impact and connect with real people. So incredibly invaluable and incredibly HARD to gather in any other communications tool…tried a survey lately?

Now that you have points on why you MUST be engaged in social media, let’s put on the frosting. These are some completely new ways that social media will improve your organization’s brand that is hard to do with traditional communications and development strategies:

Find new people to support your cause for FREE – Yes, I said it FREE. You can target new people and experiment with difference audiences for FREE. Engaging in social media is WAY cheaper than buying a list or attending community events. Just figure out where your audience is and start posting.

Get the attention of key influencers – You can use social media strategically to get introduced to funders, influential organizations and important people. At CCIC, we have been able to elevate our presence beyond Colorado to a national level with lots of targeted Twitter relationships. We’ve gotten the attention of national organizations and the CDC.

Connect with traditional media – You can create real relationship with reporters online. Not only can you send them direct messages with story pitches but they see all the information you spew out then pick and choose on what stories they want to cover.

Attract the elusive blogger – Bloggers are the next newsies. These are influential people who are not going anywhere. Comment on their posts, find their Twitter feeds and get to know them. Form a tight bond and they might even let you submit a guest post. At CCIC, we’ve created relationship and got posts/guest posts on influential blogs including Discover Magazine Blogs and other blogs around the world.

Do something completely new – Use this new environment to experiment. It’s just your time that you are gambling with. We did this really good “feel good” campaign over Thanksgiving which allowed parents to give thanks for their healthy kids – see the results.

For more tips on how to get engaged in social media, developing content, saving time and dealing with those meanies, check out my social media presentations.

So, are there more fears floating around out there? Is there another way you helped convince your boss to let your engage in social media? I want to hear about it!

@Replies, Damn @Replies and Statistics

This post will be somewhat of a Twitter inside baseball topic – not what I usually write about – so if you are not interested in Twitter arcana, you might want to skip this one.

Those of us on Twitter could not have missed the uproar that happened a couple of weeks ago when Twitter management decided to make a “small settings update” to its service by eliminating an option they said was “undesirable and confusing.” This change removed the option to see the one side of the conversations people you follow are having with people you don’t. Now you can only see these “half conversations” (called @replies) if you follow both people. Sounds like a small thing, but those of us who had chosen to see all @replies are now missing out on interesting conversations, resources and the opportunity to discover new people.

Fairly quickly, word spread across Twitter about the change and a revolt took place as people started tagging their protests with “#fixreplies,” which became the top trending topic on Twitter for a few days. After first seeming just clueless about how people use their service, Twitter offered a non-solution posing as a fix and then flat-out said they will not be bringing the option back for technical reasons. The reason from their post:

Even though only 3% of all Twitter accounts ever changed this setting away from the default, it was causing a strain and impacting other parts of the system.

Okay, given the millions of new users that have come on board in the past month or two in the wake of Oprah and Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter publicity stunts, it makes sense that the system is strained. But, having been on Twitter since around the end of 2007, I found it hard to believe that only 3% of the other users had touched their @reply settings. And given the extent of the outcry, either this was a very vocal 3% or a lot of people were jumping on the protest bandwagon even though the change did not affect them at all.

More likely, this was a disingenuous statistic chosen by Twitter to make their point, but that does not give the whole story. I suspect that they are counting 3% of anyone who has ever created an account on Twitter – including those who try it out for a day and never come back. A recent Nielsen study found that 60% of those who sign up do not return the following month (though this statistic does not take into account the many who sign up at Twitter.com but actively use TweetDeck or another client application). What if they looked at the percentage of active Twitter users (the people who should actually matter) — particularly those who have been on the service for a while? Would the percentage change?

This question nagged at me for a while until I decided to do a quick survey to see if my suspicions were right. I created a four-question survey, which asked the following questions:

  1. How long have you been actively using Twitter?
  2. How many people do you follow on Twitter?
  3. Before Twitter took away the option, how was your @Replies option set?
  4. How has the loss of the @Replies option affected your Twitter experience?

I sent out a tweet asking people to complete the survey and to retweet it (repost in Twitter parlance) to their followers as well. My objective was to send it far and wide on Twitter so that it was not just my own Twitter followers responding, but a wide swath of users across the service. The result was that people who were following my account retweeted the post 28 times, with a subsequent total of 118 retweets dispersed around different social circles. I ended up with 402 total responses to the survey.

I will be the first to admit that this sample may not necessarily be statistically representative of all active Twitter users (though if it were, the sample size gives us a 5% margin of error and 95% confidence level). Respondents were not chosen randomly, and the people who decided to participate may be more likely to have a strong opinion on the topic. Nonetheless, I think it may be helpful to take a look at the results because this segment of Twitter user has been strongly impacted by the change. (The results for each question can be seen here. I’m happy to share my full statistical analyses as well if you’d like to see them.)

Most respondents had been actively using Twitter for 3-12 months (40%), with 36% on for more than a year and 24% for less than three months. I figured that the longer someone had been using Twitter, the more likely they are to have played around with the options to see what they prefer rather than leaving the default of only seeing @replies when they follow both people.

A vast majority (63%) follow between 50-500 people on Twitter. Next is 501-5000 follows at 24%, fewer than 50 with 12%, and only 2% follow more than 5000. I hypothesized that those who were following more people would probably not notice much of a change in their cluttered feed.

Now, the kicker here is that before the option was taken away, 63% of the respondents had chosen to show all @replies for the people they followed — much higher than the 3% cited by Twitter. Those who had the default selected – to show only @replies between people they follow – were 19%, plus another 17% who said that they didn’t know what option was selected (and presumably hadn’t changed the default), for a total of 36%. And only 1% had chosen the option not to see any @replies unless directed at them.

Finally, 57% said that the loss of the @replies option had affected their Twitter experience for the worse. These were presumably those who had the option taken away from them, but could also be people who did not want to see all @replies for people who started making their replies visible to everyone, such as by putting a character before the “@” symbol or embedding the @reply name within or at the end of the tweet. Only 5% said their experience was better and 39% reported no change (close to the 36% who were already set at the default option).

I also ran some chi-square stats to see how these variables affected each other and created some nifty charts at Chartle.net. Here’s what I found (only reporting the statistically significant correlations at p< .05 href="http://www.social-marketing.com/blog/uploaded_images/Time-Following-707772.png">The number of people that respondents were following on Twitter correlated with how long they had been on the service, at the highest and lowest following numbers. But most people – no matter how long they had been on – were comfortably in the 50-500 range.

Users who had been on Twitter for a longer time were more likely to choose the “show all @replies” option, with 72.2% of old-timers who had been on for at least a year and 65.2% of those on 3-12 months. Still, almost half (46.3%) of the newbies on for less than three months also selected that option.

Not surprisingly, given that time on Twitter and number following are correlated, the more people a respondent followed, the more likely they were to select the “show all @replies” option (
The quality of respondents’ experience on Twitter after the policy change, as you would expect, depended on which @reply option they had selected before all defaulted to showing only mutual @replies. For those with the “show all” option, 78.2% said their experience is worse, the direct opposite of the other two options (show only mutual=72.9%, show none=75.0%). The correlation between number following and quality of current experience on Twitter also mirrors the distribution of @replies option selected.


So what does this all mean? Even if this sample is not representative of all Twitter users, it does represent a substantial segment of users who are not as happy with their experience on the site since the option was taken away. Twitter would be smart to pay attention to this group, which is not only comprised of crotchety old-timers and “power users.” To avoid losing these disgruntled users, Twitter needs to come up with a way to bring back seeing all @replies in a way that they can live with. At the very least, Twitter needs to be honest about the percentage of its actual active users (not including abandoned accounts) who were using the “show all @replies” option. Whether it’s closer to 3% or 63%, by dismissing those who were upset by the #fixreplies kerfuffle as a tiny group of whiners, Twitter increased user dissatisfaction and the likelihood of defection should a service come along that works harder to meet its users’ needs.

UPDATE (6/1/09):
New research
that has just come out from Harvard from a random sample of 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009 shows that the top 10% of Twitter users account for over 90% of tweets. And the median number of lifetime tweets per Twitter users is one. So there is a huge difference between the typical Twitter account and an active Twitter account.

This backs up my survey findings that many more active Twitter users were affected by the recent @replies option change than Twitter was willing to admit. To say that only 3% of users had selected the “see all @replies” option was extremely deceptive when it turns out that 90% or so of the total Twitter accounts are not even being actively used. Those who do use their accounts tend to opt to see all @replies. Twitter should not be able to so easily dismiss this loud, vocal majority.

Image Credit: monettenriquez

Come Dialogue on New Media Today!

Please join me today (September 16th, 9 am – 7 pm EDT) in a CDC-sponsored Web Dialogue on New Media in Health Marketing. I will be a panelist, along with:

  • Ann Aikin, Health Communications, CDC/NCHM/DeHM
  • Jennie Anderson, MS, AIDS.gov and John Snow Inc.
  • Miguel Gomez, Director, AIDS.gov, OS
  • Fard Johnmar, M.A., Envision Solutions, LLC
  • R. Craig Lefebvre, PhD, Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University

We’ll be asking questions, offering ideas and answers in response to your questions and thoughts, and discussing issues related to blogs, social networks, and other types of social media, as they relate to health marketing (CDC’s term for social marketing). Over 300 of our closest friends have also registered, and will be part of the conversation as well. I hope you will register and join us!

P.S. I will be joining late, as the three hour time difference, plus dropping my sister off at the airport, will delay my jumping in. I’m counting on you all to keep the conversation going until I get back!

Hurricane Force Social Media

While at this point it is apparent that Hurricane Gustav is not going to turn into another Katrina, at the end of last week it was not so clear. What was clear is that social media is playing a bigger role in disaster preparedness and response than ever before.

As we went into the holiday weekend, I watched in awe from the sidelines as a tribe of people on Twitter mobilized to put social media tools into place to deal with the anticipated disaster, building on what had been created two years earlier on an ad hoc basis in the social aftermath of Katrina. With a volunteer effort led by Andy Carvin of NPR, the work centered around a Ning social network called the Gustav Information Center and a related wiki.

In this and other independent initiatives, many people created and compiled tools like Twitter feeds that broadcast government alerts, news, and blog links about Gustav, as well as a widget that combined all Twitter mentions of Gustav; an interactive map that shows evacuation routes, shelter locations and storm movement; a feed of Craigslist volunteering and housing opportunities; a mobile resource guide and more. ReadWriteWeb compiled a comprehensive list of the online resources that were created mostly in advance of the hurricane’s landfall.

While clearly the government was much better prepared to ensure there was no repeat of the chaos that ensued after the dropping of balls at multiple levels two years ago, and nonprofits like the Red Cross stood at the ready to assist people displaced by the storm, the prize for coordination has to go to the citizen volunteers who spent their Labor Day weekend building a massive online infrastructure. These are people who often had no connection to New Orleans other than a strong desire to do something to help their fellow humans. And by working together in a coordinated way, they were able to avoid duplicating efforts and use their volunteer time most efficiently.

Considering the massive resources that FEMA has at its disposal, the web page it created with information about the Federal response to Gustav is fairly paltry. The Red Cross utilized a blog as an online newsroom to good effect, with multimedia resources for the press and quick distribution of downloadable public service announcements. And its Safe and Well list can also be accessed via Twitter.

But it is the combined contributions of hundreds of social media enthusiasts that created a gale force of its own and demonstrated the raw power of the social web.

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You Know You Spend Too Much Time on Twitter When…

In recognition of the fact that lately I’ve been neglecting my blog in favor of Twitter, I am doing penance with a bit of humor.

You know you spend too much time on Twitter when…

… you start calling your family things like @Dad or @Rachky in conversations.

… you only speak in short bursts of 140 characters and self-edit to use synonyms with fewer letters.

… you make decisions about what you’ll have for lunch based on how interesting it will sound on Twitter.

… you find yourself thinking up new Alltop topics in the hopes of getting Kawasakied.

… you make a new offline friend and announce to all your other friends that you’re just 2 people short of having 200 friends.

… your swear word of choice is “TweetJeebus!”

… your Twitter followers know you are pregnant before your husband does.

… throughout the day you compose tweets in your head about what you’re doing, even if you are nowhere near your computer.

… during a Twitter outage, you compulsively hit “refresh” every three seconds hoping this will be the time it will come back on.

… most of your email is now either direct messages or new follower notifications.

… you don’t feel the need to go to a conference in person anymore because someone else is livetweeting it.
… you get all your news from @BreakingNewsOn.

… you find yourself referring to the telephone’s pound key as a ‘hashtag.’

… you have no idea what’s going on in your friends’ lives unless they are on Twitter.

… you give people your personal website address as a TinyURL.

… you can’t hear what someone says to you and you say, “Could you please retweet that?”

These things, of course, do not apply to me. What would you add?

Photo Credit: sarahkim