How H1N1 Changed My Life

When I was in my mid-20s, like most, I went through a career shift.  I had moved to the States with my husband and found a job at a company I liked, but didn’t feel purposeful.  I was 27 and knew it was time to go back to school.

I started taking classes at a local in-state university and settled on communication.  I liked it well enough, I had been doing it for years and I told myself that I could work for a non-profit when I graduated and somehow change the world that way.


At the same time the H1N1 pandemic flu outbreak began to garner attention on the news.  I paid little attention to it.  I had always gotten my flu shot, less out of a greater responsibility to prevent the spread of the flu, but because I didn’t want to get the flu myself.  At the time, I reasoned that I would get the H1N1 flu shot once it was opened up to those who weren’t in a priority group.  Until I could get the shot I reasoned that I wasn’t likely to get H1N1 and that it wouldn’t be severe if I got it.

Sound familiar, risk communicators?

Then I got it. Continue reading

How Do You Find Data On “the Others”?

What you are looking at above are 70 sugar cookies I decorated to look like social media buttons according to the most recent data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  The occasion was for the introductory session of a series of digital media “bootcamps” a coworker and I have launched our colleagues.  I thought cookies would be a great way to visualize the social space and put those at ease who were intimidated by digital media.

After all, who’s afraid of cookies?!

But then I noticed something we should all be afraid of: The 16 orange cookies marked “O” for “other.”*

Why The Others MatterI recently hosted a webinar on how public health professionals can – and need to – find out how their audiences are using digital media before beginning a campaign.  Knowing that my audience, like myself, works on social marketing and health communication campaigns with tight budgets, most of the data sources I recommended were free. I focused a fair amount on Pew’s Center for Internet and American Life, and the amazing research they publish on an almost weekly basis.Before I go any further, I would like to take a moment to give Pew and their researchers a round of applause.

But there’s a hitch with Pew, just as with almost all of the other white papers and journal articles I’ve read: Their social media research focuses primarily on the big four sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace).

I noted in my presentation that those may not be the best ways to reach your audience using social media, and that there are other platforms that may be more effective for reaching your target audience.  I recommended they look outside the beaten path for their audience online, but in terms of finding reliable and consistent data on the others, I couldn’t give them one.

Who are the others? BeboBlogHerCafeMomCouchSurfingDailyStrength,
PinBoardReddit,SparkPeopleTumblrYelp and many, many more.

Those represent a lot of different ways to get public health messages in front of a variety of different audiences.

Self-Serving Data Sources

Two months ago I went off in search of data on a site that falls into the category of “the others.”  What I found were white papers and infographics from social media marketing agencies that contradicted each other.  In essence, I could have made the case for using or excluding the site in social media plans, and supported either conclusion with data that had been released in the last six months.

That’s a big problem.  In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest problems facing the industry right now.

Recently I was privy to a final report on a campaign that was not successful.  The few data sources that were cited, had been cherry picked.  But, without any other reliable source of data, pay or free, they had created a strategy and then back-filled the research to support it.  We can’t use the lack of consistent data on “the others” to support a strategy we simply like, not one that we know will be effective.

What Do We Do Now?

With PewNielsen and Forrester focusing primarily on the big four (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace) we’re left with a major information gap.  Where do we find information like this?  How do we sift through the existing research and consolidate resources?

I want to hear from you!  What research sources do you use to find data on “the others”?

*Full disclosure, 7 of the 16 “other” should be MySpace, however, the MySpace logo is highly difficult to carve out of rolled fondant at 10pm on a Wednesday.

References & Resources

Pew Internet & American Life Project, Social Networking Sites & Our Lives, June 16, 2011

We All Need To Calm Down About Klout

Yesterday was a perfect example of why you shouldn’t build your brand around a score you can’t manage and can be changed without notice.  I’m talking about Klout.

I’ve received emails over the past several months from individuals who include their Klout score in their signature.  Someone recently gave me a business card with their Klout score on it. After yesterday when Klout changed its algorithm, lowering scores by as much as 20 points, I wondered if he was going to print new business cards. Continue reading

Will a Ban on Body Contact Prevent Traumatic Brain Injury in the NHL?

“Turncoats” & “Pukes”:

The summer of 2011 saw tragedy for the NHL.  Three retired enforcers, Derek Boogaard (28),Wade Belak (35) and Rick Rypien (27),  met tragic ends.  The deaths this summer came soon after news that several other retired enforcers who had met similar ends had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) the result of repeated traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Enforcers are players whose primary role is to fight with a player on another team with the goal of removing the player from the play through physical contact.

Two weeks ago Hockey Night in Canada juggernaut Don Cherry spoke out about the issue and attacked several retired enforcers who were now calling attention to the issue.

Below is a conversation I had with Launy Schwartz of Hockey54 on changing social norms for the NHL, preventing TBI and Don Cherry’s lagging relevance in the hockey realm.

The Conversation: Continue reading

Should Minors Have Different Facebook Privacy Settings?

A few weeks ago I noticed that the Facebook status updates of a teenage relative were tagged with her approximate location.


Before I go on, I should disclose that my teenage relatives rarely listen to me when it comes to Facebook.  I’ve accepted that they’re still going to post /those/ photos, use /that/ language and write about /that thing that happened last night.

There are few issues I bring to their attention, but this one struck a nerve: Facebook was posting the location of a 17-year-old girl when she updated her status.  This somehow wasn’t right.

I noticed she was online and started chatting with her:

“Hey, you should disable the geotagging feature on your Facebook status updates.  Everyone can see where you are when you update.”

“Yeah, I’ve tried to take it off, but I can’t.” Continue reading

Your Website is More than Just a Pretty Face

A contributor to Digital Good is our Anonymous Web Designer (AWD).  AWD specializes in creating user-centric websites and web products for health and social marketing campaigns.  

Let’s face it. When it comes to government-funded projects, budgets are usually not design-friendly. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved and the expected we-need-a-50-page-website-but-we-only-have-$75-in-the-budget-just-do-what-you-can line.

And so it begins.

When a project manager requests design work, they want the product to be good, done quickly, and cheap. The rule of thumb is you can only get 2 out of 3.

At this point, they resort to the well-the-site-has-to-be-up-in-5-days and can-you-just-work-fast? response. It seems like the most logical solution at the time, but as many designers know all too well, problems arise soon after.

The Top 5 Functionality Complaints of Rushed Government Websites: Continue reading

Is It Ever OK to Lie to Your Audience?

Lying to, or misleading your audience in a health communication or social marketing campaign is just plain wrong.

Not lying to your public shouldn’t be a controversial opinion, but every once in a while I run into a public health professional that thinks lying or obfuscating the truth is justifiable so long as it leads to the desired action.

Exaggerating or fudging statistics may help you with adherence to your desired health behavior right now, but when your public finds out that you’ve lied to them, they are more likely to reject the behavior going forward.

My Dermatologist Lied to Me (and other betrayals): Continue reading