What I Learned from Tobacco Control Advocates

Using the spectogram to look at influencing stakeholders

Using the spectogram to look at influencing stakeholders

Last week I was in Bangkok co-facilitating a 5 day training on using social media for tobacco control advocates from Southern and South East Asia.  The training was organised by the World Lung Foundation (WLF) and participants have campaigns to: pass and/or improve implementation of laws that ban smoking in public places, raise awareness on the impacts on second hand smoke, raise taxes on the purchase of cigarettes and to put graphical warnings on cigarettes.  Largely they were all working to minimise the impacts of an industry that makes money on undermining the health and contributing to the death of individuals anywhere they are allowed to. The participants were mainly interested in utilising social media to conduct public education campaigns and to increase engagement of stakeholders.

It was great to learn more about the ins and outs on using Facebook Ads, which are much cheaper than mass media ads, yet have significant impact.  Key things to think about in regards to ads:

  • Understanding these two pricing models are the key to conducting a relatively inexpensive campaign.
    • CPC – is cost per click – which means you are actually pay only when people click on your add
    • CPM – is cost per thousand impressions, which means you pay for a unit cost for every 1,000 times your ad is displayed to Facebook users.
  • Only spend what you need to on advertising in order to achieve your outreach goals, any more is a waste (a piece of golden advice from WLF’s Steve Hamill)

LifeisSweeterExtremely graphic pictures of the impact of smoking are proven deterrents for smokers, but these types of images are less likely to be shared on Social Media.  Positive images or humorous ones have a tendency to go farther on social media, as these will get more people to ‘like’ or ‘share.’  When participants attempted to submit a graphic ad during the training, Facebook rejected it, on the grounds it was disturbing.

Another learning for me was understanding the lengths the Tobacco Industry will take to disrupt the messages of public health advocates. During a session I did on digital security I heard how several tobacco control organisations websites had experienced DDOS attacks.  I found that EFF’s website and videos on ‘Keeping Your Site Alive‘ were excellent in helping the participants understand both what was happening when their site’s went down but also how to take steps to protect themselves (Back up! Mirror!).


Using the pyramid to prioritise tactics

A tactic that the Tobacco Industry takes with Facebook posts is to report tobacco control content as being ‘disturbing.’ Facebook will censor the content.  This led to an interesting discussion about what steps to take when this happens.  First it was important for everyone to understand that when you use a third party site for content, that third party is in control and they have final say on censoring your content.  While Facebook will allow you to appeal their decision to censor you, their first step is to remove the post, so you will have to wait for them to consider your appeal.  The only way to really assure your content won’t be censored is to use your own website for the content and provide a URL to that content in a post.

We use The pyramid and half-wheel exercise to ground the participants in their campaigns, and prioritise tactics to use in social media.  Again, Upwell.us‘s techniques on Big Listening were invaluable to the participants for understanding of how social media is not just for broadcasting, but also for learning about your advocacy targets and how they are currently framing your issue.

We also covered how to evaluate their social media campaigns. Throughout the training, participants worked on six month plans for how they would integrate social media in their campaigns.  It was gratifying to see them develop realistic quantitative AND qualitative metrics that would help them determine the effectiveness of their campaigns.


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