The Facts, Fictions and Objects of Social Media


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Presentation on social media to the American Academy of Pediatrics District V and X meeting in St. Pate Beach, FL 29 June 2013.
Narrative to fit with the slides can be found at:
5 fictions about social media for public health and healthcare

Social objects: Sharing devices of object-centered sociality.

Social technologies for social marketing and social change (Chapter 12), In Lefebvre, R.C. Social marketing and social change: Strategies and tools for improving health, well-being and the environment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013.

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  • Social technologies, including mobile and social media, are more than technologies. They can fundamentally shift the way people interact and function as groups. In this chapter we explore some of strategic implications for these technologies in social marketing programs. I start from the premise that these technologies offer new ways to develop and scale up population-based behavior change strategies and to address social issues.Image:
  • Text, p. 415.“The essence of social media lies in their intrinsic capability to facilitate collaborations and interactions among people. It is easy to think of these media as digital extensions of our interpersonal channels of promotion, allowing us to narrow our use of broadcast-type communication. However, thinking about these new media as just new communication channels to send out messages to people misses what the revolution is all about: using media in new ways not using new media.Mobile phones and social networks are not the next ‘magic bullet’ for communication, marketing, public health or social change – we need to think of them as part of the personalized media space our people formerly know as ‘audiences’ are creating for themselves. Ubiquity in this increasingly mobile environment will be a key factor for our future successes in public health.These new technologies have implications for how we think about the behaviors, products, and services we market; the incentives and costs we focus on;the opportunities we present; and the places where we interact with our priority groups and encourage them to try new things.”Image:
  • See text, p. 416“The more powerful position that organizations can take to exploit the features of social media is to become collaborators, conveners, facilitators, brokers,and network weavers. By collaborators, I mean that they work inside what others have created, such as existing blogs and social network sites (SNS), or they create platforms for group participation from the beginning. Conveners use social media to bring people of common purpose together to get things done—rather than simply substituting computer-mediated meetings for in-person ones, as the burgeoning webinars do. Becoming a broker means becoming a dynamic resource center—not a place where people go to check out job posts, download toolkits, and consider case studies but where people can, among other things, exchange advice and information, solicit creative work, comment on works in progress, and allow agencies to see who outside the usual networks might have the ways and means to reach priority groups. Using social media means embracing the idea that the world is fundamentally composed of social networks; social media create a world of distributed networks, where anyone can be a producer and distributor of information.And finally, agencies and organizations need to think about themselves as network weavers—pulling together diverse and isolated groups working on thesame problem who do not have the connectors, or bridges, to bring them into contact with one another. Creating a collaborative platform does not meanmoving all the usual suspects onto it; it should instead become a way to engage local organizations, advocates, and other affected groups in the effort.”Image;
  • See text, p. 417Working effectively in a social world means shifting our focus from individuals to the connections between them. That is why we need to have social theories for change and not just individually oriented ones. The power of using social media is not that we can reach people in new ways but that they allow us to take advantage of the connections people have with each other. The challenge has to be framed as how do we design experiences people want to share (or pass along), rather than as how do we design something that is entertaining and changes people’s behavior?Image:
  • Five fallacies about social media. See text for full description of them, pp. 419-425.
  • See text, pp. 419-420.Reach is a broadcast term. In the social media space, as you see here, reaching people is not the point. People are engaging in conversations in many different ways in many different places. They are not waiting for us to talk to them. The challenge of social media is how to ‘attract and engage,’ or join them.Image:
  • See text, pp. 420-421.Unfortunately, for us, people using social media are not there waiting for people to come along and talk to them about changing behaviors. They have much more important things to be doing. We need to figure out how to fit into their reality on SNS, not try and force our way into becoming their dance partner. How does what we offer give them value in their relationships. The explosion of social media confronts us with the reality that social networks frame the opportunities and constraints for change, and we need to learn to work with themImage:
  • See text, pp. 421-423..Changing behavior on social network sites overlooks a fundamental problem: people do not have the same level of skills or engagement ability to participate. The Forrester segmentation scheme, Social technographics, makes this clear. The Reader-to-Leader framework (right image) is also clear that people often have to be led through a series of online participatory behavioral change - from a reader role to a contributor, collaborator, and finally, leader role - before we can expect them to be ready to focus on using these technologies for health or social behavior change.Social technographics image: framework image: Preece, J. and B. Shneiderman (2009) The Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating Technology-Mediated Social Participation.AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, (1) 1, pp. 13-32Image:
  • See text, pp. 423-424.People using social media do not act like an audience. They are communities ..creating things, sharing objects and experiences.The most important opportunity that letting go of the target audience mindset provides is that we can leverage and facilitate the interpersonal, or word-of-mouth, communication that occurs naturally in these social networks and communities. If we approach social media without a consumer frame, we can then think about how we can use the most significant influencer for new learning and behavior change—interpersonal communication.Images, clockwise fro upper left:1.
  • See text, pp. 424-425. The two images reinforce the points in the text. (1) There are many different SNS people use – this is the top 40 in the world as of Spring, 2013. We need to understand what our priority group does with SNS. (2) Just because SNS is popular, it doesn’t mean that’s where people go when they are thinking about health or other social issues.Image:Top 40 SNS - information sites Health information sites -
  • Image: source: Generations 2010: Trends in online activities. Pew Internet and American Life Project.
  • See text, pp. 425-426.Source:
  • Source:
  • A brief vignette about zombies and the CDC. CDC didn’t invent a social object (zombies), or were even the first to appropriate zombies for public health emergencies. (This is a real article).
  • And in a county in Florida, and enterprising, creative staff person used their own time to develop a complete emergency management plan for a zombie attack, including every detail the health department would have in any other emergency response plan they created.
  • When the CDC published the post “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse on its Public Health matters blog on 16 May 2011…. It went viral quickly. Among other things, leading to a tie-in with the The Walking Dead on AMC.“…by thinking about social objects of the priority group (what do they talk about versus what do we want to tell them), the CDC made the courageous choice to fit the effort into that group’s conversation.”
  • See text, pp. 428-429.
  • The Facts, Fictions and Objects of Social Media

    1. 1. The Facts, Fictions and Objects of Social Media American Academy of Pediatrics District V & X Meeting St. Pete Beach, FL 29 June 2013 R. Craig Lefebvre, PhD Research Professor, University of South Florida College of Public Health & chief maven, socialShift
    2. 2. What Does Social Media Do? • Becomes a collaborative platform • Harnesses collective intelligence • Enables everyone to be a content creator • Provides greater access to knowledge and information resources • Encourages media multiplexity • Expands and manages social networks
    3. 3. Creating Webs for Change
    4. 4. Shifting Focus from Individuals to Connections How do we design experiences people want to share?
    5. 5. Social Media Strategies for Marketing Health • How do I add social media features to my health products, services, and programs? • How do I use these technologies to overcome psychological and social barriers (costs) people have to engaging in new behaviors, develop new incentives and rewards, and create new ways of providing social support to people who are trying to change behaviors? • How can I place-shift; use SNS, co-presence, and virtual worlds; and add GPS to create scalable health care and health promotion programs? • How do I facilitate conversations among people, and not aim messages at them?
    6. 6. We can reach and change the behavior of our target audience through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter
    7. 7. Fiction 1: We can reach people
    8. 8. Find Your Way to Where Your Patients Are
    9. 9. Fiction 2: We can change people
    10. 10. Fiction 3: We can change health behaviors Most people who participate on SNS or in online health communities do so at very low levels of activity.
    11. 11. Fiction 4: Our target audiences use social media
    12. 12. Fiction 5: Go where the numbers are
    13. 13. Understand User Behavior And that It Changes Over Time
    14. 14. Social Objects The reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else.
    15. 15. A social object is the centerpiece in a dialogue between two or more people.
    16. 16. Social Networks form around Social Objects, not the other way around.
    17. 17. Social objects are transactional, facilitating exchanges among those who encounter them.
    18. 18. If markets are conversations, then marketing is about the things that conversations are about.
    19. 19. In: Tchuenche JM & Chiyaka C. (2009). Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress.
    20. 20. Implications of Social Media for Your Practice • Put social in your social media • Collaborate and co-create content • Create or point people to places where they can share experiences • Don’t think about big numbers, think ‘community’ • Honor the trust barometer • Follow professional standards
    21. 21. The most important asset in The New Marketing is “having something worth talking about.”