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Public Health Res Pract. 2015 Mar 30;25(2):e2521517. doi: 10.17061/phrp2521517.

Social media campaigns that make a difference: what can public health learn from the corporate sector and other social change marketers?

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Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Cancer Council NSW, Sydney, Australia.



A great deal of enthusiasm and interest exists in using social media for public health communications, but few research studies have examined its success in promoting and adopting protective health behaviours. To begin to understand how best to develop effective online social marketing campaigns, this paper provides a summary of success factors and key lessons learnt from selected social media campaign case studies.


Case study review Methods: A selection of case studies was reviewed for lessons in campaign development, delivery and evaluation from both the corporate and public health sectors. Information about the objective of the campaign, the tactics used and the lessons learnt was extracted from each case study. Lessons learnt from across the case studies were then sorted according to themes.


Lessons from the nine case studies selected were categorised into eight themes: planning, use of social media tools, community, content, personal benefits, promotion, costs and challenges. Outcome evaluation data were lacking in the case studies.


Overall, the nine case studies show that social media hold promise in changing user behaviours and that social media are highly effective in recruiting participants and motivating them to take small, concrete actions. The case studies also demonstrate that there is room in social media for targeted, inexpensive, small-scale projects, as well as large, well-funded, mass-reach marketing blitzes. Social media campaign process and impact evaluation measures are readily available. Outcome evaluation models and measures are needed to better assess the effectiveness of social media campaigns in changing health behaviours.

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