Experiences of Health Promotion Professionals designing and implementing healthy eating campaigns on social media

Published by communicatinghealth on

Presented at the 18th meeting of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA)


Authors: Rounsefell K, Gibson S, Brennan L, Reid M, McCaffrey TA

Purpose: Social media (SM) platforms have disrupted the way health professionals engage and reach communities to encourage healthy behaviours. This study explored the experiences of health promotion professionals (HPP) delivering healthy eating campaigns via SM platforms.

Method: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted in a purposive sample of nine Australian nutrition focussed HPP involved in the development and implementation of SM campaigns. Interviews explored experiences of campaign planning, delivery and evaluation. Inductive content analysis was used to identify the main themes.

Results: Participants were mainly from health organisations, with backgrounds in nutrition and communication or marketing. Three themes emerged from the data: i) HPP reported feeling they lacked the capacity to remain competitive with ‘influencers’ and food industry on SM. Day-to-day SM management and evaluation activities were limited by the amount of time to dedicate to SM and budgetary constraints. To overcome these obstacles, HPP cross-promoted messages from other organisations and collaborated on SM campaign creation. ii) SM messaging strategy was fundamental to campaign success. Effective messages were short, relatable, and positively toned. HPP also identified that content should include a mixture of formats (e.g. videos and photos) and not sound overtly health-related or didactic. Co-creation and sharing content from the community appeared to boost engagement. iii) All participants described the need to understand the target audience. However, those with a greater understanding of marketing strategies identified the need to segment the population using behavioural characteristics to target specific behaviours.

Conclusions: This study provided insights into the approaches HPP use and the challenges experienced in delivering SM health campaigns.  HPP designing and implementing SM campaigns would benefit from an understanding of marketing strategies such as audience segmentation and co-creation activities to enhance engagement with their audience. Capacity planning and forming partnerships with other HPP organisations may also support SM campaign success.

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