Similarities between Social Media and Social Marketing
Although social media and social marketing have different meanings, they share some commonalities. One of them is that they are both centered on communication between two or more people. Social marketing aims to communicate a message, while social media strives to promote communication among people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of the Associate Director for Communication, 2011). Another similarity between the two terms is that they are both social. In other words, their success depends on social relationships among people. Lastly, social marketing and social media are similar because they both use modern communication tools such as Facebook and Twitter (Sharma, 2016). These similarities explain why some people use the two terms interchangeably.
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Differences between Social Marketing and Social Media
One difference between social marketing and social media is that the latter may not necessarily aim to promote any agenda because it only provides a platform where people connect without any intended goal (Sharma, 2016). Comparatively, social marketing aims to promote a specific message or agenda (Geller et al., 1997). The second difference between both concepts is that social marketing aims to build awareness about a specific issue, while social media aims to connect people (Sharma, 2016). Lastly, social marketing and social media differ on the premise that the latter does not use any algorithms or tools to create a buzz, but social marketing requires such algorithms and formulas for passing a message to the intended audience (Sharma, 2016).
Examples of Social Marketing
Different researchers have highlighted several examples of the social marketing concept and explained their use in the health sector. For example, researchers have used it to improve resource efficiency in a campaign to minimize lung disease (NSMC, 2017). The platform helped public health workers to understand the best way to target their resources and reach the right audience to achieve the best outcome (NSMC, 2017). The same workers used it to map target groups and identify the right partners to collaborate with. Another example of its use occurred in Texas, where public health practitioners used social marketing to increase the use of child car seats and seat belts among the Hispanic community. This strategy helped to improve the use of child car seats by more than 70% (NSMC, 2017).
Examples of Social Media Use
Dyer (2017) highlights one example of the use of social media in a campaign to promote healthy behaviors by using the Vitabiotics method. The media platform helped to build a community of 13,000 people in this campaign (Dyer, 2017). Companies also supported it because they wanted to learn important health data, which saved them millions of dollars in health research (Dyer, 2017). The social media platforms used were Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Another example of social media use was a campaign called Steaz, which was aimed at informing people about the benefits of organic tea. Facebook and Twitter were the main channels used and they generated more than 2,800 tweets in an hour (Dyer, 2017). The campaign was successful at promoting the consumption of organic tea among selected American communities.
Potential Strengths of using Social Media Tools in Public Health Programs
Social media tools are beneficial in health promotion. One of their main strength is that they help program developers to manage multiple social media channels. This way, health practitioners can control their messaging strategies on multiple social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the likes, at the same time. Another strength of using social media tools in public health programs is their ability to streamline team collaboration (Fertman & Allensworth, 2017). This benefit is important because there are instances where different health partners may reply to one issue differently or multiple times. The use of social media tools helps to eliminate instances of duplication by streamlining team collaboration (Sharma, 2016).
Potential Limitations of using Social Media Tools in Public Health Programs
One limitation associated with the use of social media tools in disseminating health information is their reliance on the presence of the internet and electricity. Some countries may not have such infrastructure, thereby reducing the effectiveness of such tools (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Community Preventative Services Task Force, 2012). Another limitation is that they are subject to constant change. For example, the introduction of Facebook’s timelines changed how companies and organizations tailored their messages to their intended audience because most of them had designed their campaigns to suit the old model (Sharma, 2016). Such changes are often distracting to health messaging strategies.
How to use Social Marketing in the Proposed Public Health Program
Social marketing could be beneficial to the proposed public health program, which aims to promote Ebola awareness in Sierra Leone. The technique could be used to spread the word about Ebola by using marketing techniques, such as population targeting, to ensure people understand the disease. Similarly, the technique could be used to integrate new partners in the health program to help spread the message about Ebola and how communities could prevent themselves from it. For example, it could be used in the planning phase of the awareness campaign to include community health leaders in Sierra Leone as an important stakeholder group in the health program (CDC, 2014).
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CDC. (2014). Ebola outbreaks 2000–2014. Web.
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Dyer, P. (2017). Does social media drive ROI? Many brands are still plagued by this question. Web.
Fertman, C.I., & Allensworth, D.D. (Eds.). (2017). Health promotion programs: From theory to practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Geller, A. C., Hufford, D., Miller, D.R., Sun, T., Wyatt, S.W., Reilley, B.,… & Koh, H. K. (1997). Evaluation of the ultraviolet index: Media reactions and public response. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 37(6), 935–941. Web.
NSMC. (2017). Social marketing examples. Web.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Community Preventative Services Task Force. (2012). The community guide. Web.