By Okechukwu Umelo

In the age of hashtags and viral videos, can social media be a powerful tool for social marketing? As a digital communications specialist I’m keen on finding examples and best practices.

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By Okechukwu Umelo*

Hi! I recently joined iSMA as a volunteer, encouraged by my growing interest in social marketing. I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to support the organization’s work with my knowledge, skills and experience.

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Social marketers are set apart by their quest for evidence-based approaches. We want to know that our time and energy working for social change makes a difference. We channel the desire to “do something” through a knowledge base that requires us to “do something that works”.  That’s why it was so exciting to see “Social Marketing: Systematic Review of Research 1998-2012” published in the March 2014, 20th anniversary edition of Social Marketing Quarterly.


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Looking for a relatively inexpensive and easy way to more deeply influence behavior for the public good? Watch this 11-minute video from Nancy Lee’s TEDxMontlakeCut Talk. It features a Wisconsin drunk driving initiative that yielded a 17% reduction in crashes, with taxpayer cost reduced from $56,000 per accident to $15,000 per accident.

How did these social marketers choose what behaviors to address? Nancy shared two questions from social marketer Mike Rothschild about how this work was done. First, he asked people “Why?” the target audience engaged in drunk driving. Then he asked, “How can we help you?”  It’s amazing how asking these two questions helped unearth barriers to behavior and helped generate an impressive return on investment for taxpayers, saving lives as a result. 

Nicholas Kristof — journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes — knows how to tell a story. Yet even he has struggled to strike a chord with readers on tough social issues. So, he turned to the field of social psychology (Sound familiar, social marketers?) and the research of Paul Slovic, Ph.D. to move readers. 


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Last night a comedy show portrayed a woman in labor, screaming and pushing to humorous effect. Watching this, my daughter's eyes grew wide and she said, "I'm scared to grow up and do that." My initial thought was to reassure her that, "There is nothing to worry about." And while I did work to reassure her in a practical and balanced way, it triggered additional thoughts. The pain of labor is certainly a concern, but more serious worries stem from the potential complications of childbirth. And, unfortunately, where we are born, the information we have, and the care we receive all greatly influence the health and chance of survival for mothers and babies. 

Mother Baby Tanzania (c) Photoshare

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Susannah Fox of Pew Internet, has released her latest report, “Family Caregivers are Wired for Health.”

  • Fully 39% of U.S. adults are caring for a loved one, up from 30% in 2010. We are starting to see the effects of an aging population AND the financial pressures that many people are facing, especially in the “sandwich generation.” Instead of outsourcing nursing care, people are stepping up to the task, like it or not, trained or not.
  • Becoming a caregiver seems to change people as health information consumers. They turn up the volume on every information source. It’s akin to becoming a parent for the first time, but it’s not celebrated in the wider culture.

Here’s the full report:

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