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Patricia O'Loughlin
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Mental Health Week: How to Effectively Leverage Social Media Beyond a Hashtag

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It’s National Mental Health Week, and if social media is anything to go by, people have a lot to say on the topic.

Kicking off on Sunday to coincide with World Mental Health Day on October 10, the week-long campaign aims to “promote social and emotional wellbeing to the community”. It’s only natural, then, that a key way to achieve this is via a promotional medium that currently saturates our cultural fabric: social media. After all, a let’s just look at the stats:

  • The world has a population of around 7.5 billion people
  • The internet has more than 3 billion users
  • Social media has 2.3 billion active users

Social media has the power to open up discussions on closed subjects 

These stats can be considered a reflection of the power that social media harnesses, something I touched on in an article I wrote earlier this year when the hashtag #ItsOkayToTalk floated around social media channels. The campaign encouraged a gobsmacking surge of men around the world to post photos of themselves accompanied with the hashtag in a bid to raise awareness about suicide prevention; however, some people expressed concern that the conversation around mental health would not stay open beyond the fading out of the trend.

Similarly, this week has mental health experts saying that awareness “is more than just a hashtag”. While slapping up a Facebook status is certainly a great way to initiate the conversation, other social media strategies should be exercised in order to keep the conversation circulating and consequently, begin dismantling the stigmas attached to mental health.

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What’s the difference between sharing on social media and actually engaging action?

There are certain ingredients that make a social media campaign successful rather than just another viral fad. By successful, I mean a campaign that actually champions action rather than serves as a bandwagon for digital-hungry mobs to jump upon. A study conducted by the Public Health Research & Practice stated that “generating a large number of shares or having a campaign ‘go viral’ cannot be seen as the primary outcome of a social media campaign”.

Rather, some ways to elicit real results beyond a virtual thumbs up include (but are not limited to):

  • Integrating social media marketing channels with traditional media to craft a cross-functional campaign
  • Implementing click-through ads that direct users within the social media site pages (as opposed to forcing them off-site)
  • Developing campaigns that are shareable
  • Providing opportunities for users to interact with the campaign
  • Taking a personal approach
  • Establishing partnerships with companies and individuals who have large social media followings

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While Mental Health Week is certainly being acknowledged across social media platforms by everyday people and influential individuals alike (including celebrities and politicians), it is important to recognise that for the campaign to be truly successful, it should trigger this shift in conversation to occur all year round. This means going beyond just a hashtag and encouraging a tidal wave effect of real behavioural changes.

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By Patricia O'Loughlin


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