Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Your Best Pathway to Health (#PathwaytoHealth) is a ministry that serves needy communities by providing entirely FREE mobile clinics, offering medical, surgical, and dental care, as well as counseling and other critical services in cities throughout the United States. This past July #PathwaytoHealth took place in Beckley, WV in the very heart of Appalachia, an area with a population of about 200,000. The Social Media + Big Data department of the North American Division provided support through a comprehensive digital strategy that, among other goals, sought to generate community awareness. In addition, it became clear that social media would and continues to be a valuable tool for relationship building and community care.
To begin, we launched a six-week awareness or ‘buzz’ campaign combined with strategically placed Facebook paid ads to recruit volunteers and generate community awareness. This buzz campaign then culminated in live coverage of the event, in coordination with traditional media. Truly effective communication strategies work in tandem across all channels and platforms. The social media component of this campaign served to magnify the impact of traditional media, as well as create a collective story of what God was able to achieve through the ministry of #PathwaytoHealth. I encourage you to search #PathwaytoHealth on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for post examples and to learn more.
As a result of this campaign strategy, over 1.9 million impressions were tracked on social media, easily reaching over 1 million people. By comparison, the previous #PathwaytoHealth event in Los Angeles, CA was bigger than the Beckley, WV event in every way, except social media reach. The difference was the integrated digital communications strategy at the Beckley event.
This enabled us to reach beyond a small local community in a powerful way, through the testimonies and stories shared. I can only assume that #PathwaytoHealth made a good first impression. It is possible that many of the people who saw this content had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist church before.
In addition, the event in Beckley reached all 50 states and over 94 countries online. The full impact of this exposure cannot be fully appreciated until the next #PathwaytoHealth promotions begin and can be compared. However, it is safe to assume that increased awareness will result in increased support, both through volunteering and donations, in the future. The ‘Rule of 7’ states that a person needs to be exposed to a message at least seven times before being motivated to action. Half the battle is cutting through the clutter online in order to reach people in a meaningful way, telling a story that inspires them to serve or support. An integrated strategy that continues to build on itself is the key to long term gains.
However, the social media component of this campaign was about more than just exposure; it also served as a powerful recruitment tool for patients. One patient heard about the clinic on Facebook and drove all the way from Ohio with her family.
We knew anecdotally that a significant number of patients had heard about the health clinic from social media. In many cases it was a friend or family member who had seen a promoted (paid) post and spread the word. We know that “92% of ‘consumers’ trust referrals from people they know” (Nielsen). But how can we be sure that social media had a significant impact? To answer this question, the exit survey asked 934 patients to identify all the ways they had heard about the clinic.
This revealed how our more traditional communication channels performed, with 15% of patients saying they had seen a flyer about the event.
The results also showed that social media outperformed all the traditional advertising, and was second only to referral by friend or family member, clearly showing the impact of social media in promoting #PathwaytoHealth to the local community.
In the future, the survey needs to also ask respondents to identify where their friends or family members had heard about the event. Word of mouth is a huge driving factor behind behavior, so it’s important to quantify how those who referred their friends heard about #PathwaytoHealth originally. These results can affect future strategy and help optimize communication costs as well as time.
Lastly, social media as customer care was a key element during the live strategy, again working with other methods of communication to enhance the overall patient experience. Platforms like Facebook are designed for engagement and relationship building. It can be a powerful tool for identifying, responding, and resolving issues in a timely manner. A patient journey could begin and end on social media. For example, much of my time spent during the event involved answering questions and communicating directly with potential patients online. In certain cases, the first point of contact was on Facebook. The patient then came for services, shared a testimony, and later followed up online for additional information and resources. Months after the event, the #PathwaytoHealth team is still answering questions on Facebook from the Beckley community and caring for their needs. By continuing to engage through social media, email, and in person, #PathwaytoHealth (and by association the Adventist church) is building a reputation as an organization that truly cares about the people it serves.
Moving forward, we would like to use data science to better understand the health of a community and better anticipate its unique needs while still in the planning stages, enabling #PathwaytoHealth to magnify it’s impact in a relevant way. We would also like to test out the use of wearable or tracking tiles to analyze patient transport patterns in real time to assess the effectiveness of the event layout and to note areas of congestion, as well as to better understand the patient experience. Similar technology has been used in department stores, hospitals, and museums to enable organizations to better optimize their space.
These are just a few examples of how social media and data science can be incorporated into a more traditional communications model to effectively multiply awareness and enhance the experience of the individuals served. We have more resources than ever before to reach and meet the needs of the community.
And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful. (Psalm 90:17, NLT)
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