Coalitions Conference Call
Using Social Media to Promote Vaccination
Ashley and Karen are both pro-vaccination parents from the Twin Cities. Karen contacted Ashley after reading a pro-vaccination op-ed by Ashley published in the Star Tribune. Together they started a blog called Moms Who Vax. Ashley said they realized that parents were only hearing the anti-vax voices, and that these groups were especially good at using anecdotal stories. Moms Who Vax wanted to use the same type of parental narratives, but to make accurate, pro-vaccination points.
Dr. Deborah Wexler, executive director of IAC, met Ashley and Karen at the 2012 National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions, and invited them to be in charge of the Voices for Vaccines www.voicesforvaccines.org (VFV) group, which had become inactive. They agreed, and this parent-driven group was re-launched in January 2013.
Karen encouraged everyone on the call to join VFV. Membership is open to members of the public and healthcare professionals. The number of members has more than doubled since January, some finding the website from the VFV Facebook page. Many will include a little story when they sign up. Karen contacts people who have a compelling story to ask if they are willing to share it on the website’s blog, Parents Who Vax. All these posts are vetted by the group’s medical advisors and approved by the author before posting.
New posts are promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, creating synergy. Karen said, "Then the fun begins!" as people start commenting and re-posting.
As anti-vaccination folk start commenting, the pro-vax people jump on board and reply with facts. Karen concluded that VFV helps parents who haven’t had a place in the discussion have a voice.
Dr. Wexler added that anti-vaccination people like Barbara Loe Fisher, National Vaccine Information Center, often say they "represent 40,000 parents," and VFV should represent the millions of people who support vaccination. Karen added that if any coalition needs the viewpoint of a pro-vaccination parent, contact them (although any contact will probably need to be electronic for now).
Email Ashley Shelby
Email Karen Ernst
Please see the accompanying slide deck for details on all these points.
Christine Vara is the lead contributor for ECBT’s blog, Shot of Prevention. Christine wants to emphasize that social media can be effective at more than just communicating messages– it is a tool ECBT is using to build relationships that lead to real life actions and positive immunization advocacy.
Every Child By Two’s (ECBT) integrated social media platform includes the Vaccinate Your Baby website, the Shot of Prevention blog, the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, and two Twitter feeds (@shotofprev and @everychildby2). There has been considerable growth in the past few years. VYB Facebook page had 1,000 “likes” in April 2010; now it has 72,000. Likewise, the Shot of Prevention blog had 1,396 monthly views in April 2010; now it has 24,300.
Educating people on immunization issues through social media has sparked a movement to more actively counter the anti-vaccine misinformation that is shared on the internet. Followers are encouraged to sign up through the VYB website to "Get Involved" button and then asked how they would like to take action. ECBT is now better equipped to inform people of specific ways they can work to support their local coalitions. The key here is connecting them with your local efforts.
As with any social media platform, comment policies are an important consideration. Slides 14-16 deal with specific issues regarding the challenges of addressing both blog and Facebook comments. Christine said to remember that people are more likely to comment if they don’t agree with something and that moderating an open policy can be very challenging and time consuming. But remember, policies can always change so it’s important to reevaluate as needed.
Amy Pisani, director of ECBT, then spoke about ECBT’s new private Facebook page called Immunization Coalition Colleagues. This has been set up to allow coalition members a timely, yet private place, to share information regarding events, campaigns or other relevant news. You can even upload photos, videos, and files. Please email Amy to receive an invitation to become a member.
Catherine Martin, California Immunization Coalition, added that she liked the quote: "You have time to create something beautiful. You have time to read the comments section. You do not have time to do both."
Christine responded that it is true that the comments can be time consuming and dealing with the negative comments is often frustrating, but her suggestions are:
- Try not to take anything personally, and;
- Be prepared with specific standardized responses and a list of good resources.
Please see the accompanying slide deck for details on all these points.
Brian described CDC’s social media push related to National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). NIIW started in 1994 in response to a measles outbreak. It has grown over the years and is now celebrated in conjunction with WHO’s World Immunization Week.
In recent years, there has been more emphasis on digital media. Social media allows CDC more rapid communication, and an ability to reach new audiences and listen to them in real-time. CDC tries to support local activities (e.g., provides sample tweets and Facebook posts) and also releases information nationally through their website, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. The audience can be parents, healthcare professionals, or public health professionals, so while the basic message is about protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases, it’s important to tailor the message for each audience.
CDC currently supports 17 Facebook profiles, 52 Twitter profiles, a YouTube channel, 13 blogs, a LinkedIn profile, text messaging and apps, a Flickr gallery, and a Pinterest account (slide 9). These various platforms reach more than 3 million people.
Brian reminded people to be strategic in their use of social media. For example, CDC does not expect to provide full information in a Tweet–they use that short message to drive people to the website where they can access more complete information in various more readable formats (e.g., parent-friendly schedules). Likewise, they have also created shorter URLs for some web pages/resources, both to make them easier to Tweet, but also to be able to assess who came to the page via Twitter or another platform.
Another important audience is Spanish speakers–Brian pointed out that this is a fast growing segment of social media users.
CDC is looking for opportunities to collaborate with partner organizations to better reach certain audiences, such as physicians and blogging parents.
Brian concluded by reminding people that social media is intended to be a two-way street, so developers must be prepared for negative traffic. One helpful hint is to prepare possible follow-up content in advance, so your responses are approved and ready to go before you post something.
Dr. Wexler asked Brian if CDC would share responses to common comments and he said yes, but to individuals, not online.
Email Brian Katzowitz
- Dr. Litjen ((L.J) Tan, MS, PhD, chief strategy officer at IAC, reminded listeners that the National Influenza Vaccine Summit is now combined with the National Adult Immunization Summit. The 2013 National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit will be held May 14–16, in Atlanta, GA. Award nominations are open until March 25 (see separate announcement in this email).
- Dr. Wexler announced that IAC’s website for the public was re-designed and re-launched in January. She encouraged listeners to check it out and refer their patients/parents to www.vaccineinformation.org