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5 Ways to Engage Women in Social Media & Public Health

Yesterday afternoon, I sat on a Google Hangout panel hosted by Danya International, to discuss how to engage women in social media and public health.

The discussion focused on opportunities and challenges faced by healthcare communicators in both public and private sectors when using social media to engage women in healthcare conversations. Among the talented group of ladies in the panel were Pam Moore, Rebecca Aguilar, Barbara Ficarra, Dr. Sandra Ford, and Michele Late.

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Here are 5 key highlights from our discussion:

#1. Women want credible online health information

When women look for health information online, they do so as caregivers to their children, spouses and other family members. This is a very personal thing. It’s important to them that the information they find is credible and accurate.

Blogs written by non-medical professionals won’t do. In fact even writers who are paid by health organizations are not necessarily believable either. What women want is trustworthy information that is backed up by credible sources and professional medical perspectives.

#2.  Health campaigns using social media must approach women and men differently

Women and men use social media differently. Women like to talk and share things that are more personal in nature. Men don’t. Women also don’t mind being vulnerable and leaning on each other for support, as long as privacy and trust are emphasized.

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What this means for healthcare communicators is that while women are open to having discussions that promote healthy lifestyles, they will only do so in a group of friends and trusted peers. Your challenge is to figure out how to enter those conversations or facilitate new conversations that include women and their trusted networks.

#3. Healthcare communicators stand out by helping not selling

With so much content competing for our attention online, healthcare communicators who want to stand out above the noise must offer simple, relevant, interesting and useful information that helps to solve the problems that women face.

The idea of pushing marketing messages must be resisted at all costs – those types of messages will only be ignored.  Websites such as WebMD and MayoClinic understand that to attract huge female audiences, their content must help not sell.

#4. Vanity metrics are less important than engagement metrics for health campaigns

This was an interesting point of discussion. Generally we agreed that it’s more important to have 100 Facebook fans or Twitter followers who are genuinely interested and engaged with your content, than 10,000 fans who never interact with your social media posts.

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The goal of most healthcare campaigns is to influence healthy decision-making and positive life-style choices, so it’s important that audiences respond and give feedback about their own experiences. When looking at Facebook or Twitter metrics for your healthcare campaign, it’s extremely important to look at Likes, comments, re-tweets, mentions and shares, as a measure of a successful campaign.

#5. Women use mobile differently from men…even for health information!

Did you know that 33% of female cell-phone owners use their phones to search for health information compared to 29% of male cell-phone owners? Did you also know that even though men text more than women, women are more likely to sign up for health text alerts? (Pew Research).

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Women are primary care givers in the family. They’re also more likely to seek online support when they become pregnant, try to quit smoking, struggle with their weight or go through a significant life change. In the U.S. healthcare communicators should leverage mobile apps to reach these women, while keeping in mind that women will check to verify the credibility of the company behind those apps. However, text messages being more globally ubiquitous than smart-phone apps are likely to have wider reach especially in countries where smart-phone penetration is not far-reaching due to economic or financial reasons.

For the full-length panel discussion, check out the YouTube video here.

Your Turn:

What do you think? How do you think healthcare communicators can engage women in social media and public health?

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