“Our growing love of social media is not just changing the way we communicate—it’s changing the way we do business, the way we are governed, and the way we live in society.” This statement by the World Economic Forum sums up the impact of social media on the lives of people around the world.
In 2010, 970 million people had access to social media. Today, that number has grown to close to four billion. A 2019 study of over 26,000 social media users worldwide found that 57% felt that social media gave them access to more information and ease in communication.
How do we define social media?
Social media is described in a 2020 publication by Breakthrough ACTION as an app or website that allows users to connect in a virtual network or community, facilitating an unprecedented “reach, frequency, usability, immediacy, and performance” of shared information or content (Pavlik & MacIntosh, 2015).
What types of social media exist?
- Social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
- Video sharing (e.g., YouTube, TikTok)
- Business networks (e.g., LinkedIn)
- Photo-sharing platforms (e.g., Instagram, Pinterest)
- Chat apps (e.g., WhatsApp, Telegram)
In each of these types, the over-arching characteristics include:
- Connections and relationship-building
- Speedy delivery
- Not limited by geography
What is the worldwide access to social media?
According to Backlinko, access to social media is growing worldwide. Between 2019-2020 alone, social media grew regionally as follows:
- North America: +6.96%
- South America: +8.00%
- Europe: +4.32%
- Africa: +13.92%
- Asia: +16.98%
- Australasia: +4.90%
It is important, however, that SBC program managers planning a social media campaign check the availability and coverage of social media in their specific region/country as part of their preliminary research.
Social media and SBC
Due to the unique characteristics of social media mentioned above, it is an excellent vehicle for social and behavior change.
In a World Bank blog, the authors state, “Leveraging social media for social and behavior change communications is a natural and needed next step for addressing large-scale challenges , including the ones presented by COVID-19. The potential of social media is clear.” The blog also relates some lessons learned thus far in the use of social media for SBC, including:
- Social media — and edutainment — can help reduce frictions and barriers that are in the way of individual action
- Social media, being social by design, relies on people’s identified communities
- Social media campaigns can promote the download and sustained use of development apps, complementing offline interventions.
- Social media offers a unique opportunity to carry out evaluation research in an iterative manner
That same blog asks some important questions:
- Can social media campaigns for these issues break through the noise of the multiple messages that populate our social media feeds?
- And if they do, how does our “online life” translate to “real-life” behaviors?
- How do we measure the effectiveness and real impact of social media campaigns?
A study published in 2020 by the Journal of Medical Internet Research of 2,555 social media users in Jordan concluded with the following statement:
|“Our findings suggest that the use of social media platforms can positively influence awareness of public health behavioral changes and public protection against COVID-19. Public health authorities may use social media platforms as an effective tool to increase public health awareness through dissemination of brief messages to targeted populations. However, more research is needed to validate how social media channels can be used to improve health knowledge and adoption of healthy behaviors in a cross-cultural context.”|
Social media will only grow in platforms, usage, and availability across the globe. Likewise, its potential for use in SBC will expand. The examples listed below of both tools and project examples are shared as inspiration for SBC professionals seeking to include social media in project design and implementation.
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Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay