Ways the government could be utilising social media to drive vaccine adoption

With states in lockdowns (again) and Australia lagging behind other countries when it comes to vaccine rollout, Taryn Williams considers how to increase vaccine uptake with strategic use of social media and community influencers.

It’s been 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic closed Aussie borders to our international friends, families and businesses. For most of us, it’s been a wild ride, and we’re more than ready for things to get back to ‘normal’.

Businesses have had a particularly tricky go of it, though watching the way entrepreneurs both here and around the globe have transformed their offerings to suit a pandemic world has doubled my belief in the disruptor spirit. Clever workarounds and quick thinking are to be admired, but pandemic patience is wearing thin and Aussies are keen to move forward. We’re constantly told the best solution is a vaccinated population.

But how do we get there?

Harness social media

I think if we are to really make a dent in Australia’s uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination program, social media needs to be harnessed in practical but also fun and creative ways. I loved Lindsey Cumming’s recent article that pointed out that Australia has a history of perfect Public Service Announcements. From slip slop slapping to curbing garbage tossers, we’re great at a slogan.

But is a catchy one liner going to be enough to face up to the giant that is COVID-19? Especially in this day and age of social media, where content needs to be thumb stopping to really have a chance of cutting through all the noise?

A recent survey showed that 13 percent of Aussies don’t know whether they want to be vaccinated, and a further 16 percent don’t want to be vaccinated at all. While personal choice will always be a key factor when looking at health measures, a recent Department of Health team-up with Twitter indicates that misinformation and confusion are also contributing to vaccine hesitancy. While their new #KnowTheFacts tool is a handy one, it’s not exactly catchy – but identifying that Twitter has a role to play in this rollout is a good start. 

An untapped resource

When we were locked inside across 2020, social media was everyone’s newest bestie. We saw mums on TikTok, dads on Instagram reels, grandpas go viral for their gardening posts and teens and millennials continuing their double threat of being super smart and super funny. We’re attached to social media, and the people posting on it, more than ever. 

In fact, data (from theright.fit) tells us that 3.5 billion people, or about 45 percent of the world’s population, are daily, active social media users. Furthermore, 90.4 percent of Millennials, 77.5 percent Gen X and 48.2 percent of Baby Boomers use social media every single day. 

That’s a lot of eyes on devices, and a lot of fingers scrolling.

So why aren’t we taking advantage of those eyeballs on screens, making the most of the closeness we feel with the faces we see on our screens every day? Influencers, athletes, doctors, and even our own friends and families’ social media presence, are an untapped resource. 

Community leaders as authentic influencers

After the 18 months we’ve all just had, we need good news stories. Remember the scene at the start of Love Actually, where everyone’s embracing at the airport? Does anyone else cry at those old Qantas ads where reunited families are full of happy tears? Those moments are happening constantly thanks to vaccines and everyone’s hard work in fighting COVID-19, so let’s highlight those stories!

Doctors, athletes, community leaders: all of these key influencers can and should be utilising social media to creatively communicate the benefits of vaccination to their communities. If we are all capable of learning to make sourdough bread or Gigi Hadids vodka pasta through Instagram Live and TikTok, surely we can harness this social, community communication to get the word out there that there is a life beyond the pandemic if we JUST all get vaccinated.

I know that social media tools can be a challenge for government bodies or health organisations who work with strict communication codes and rules – and that those exist for a reason. It might seem paradoxical to work with TikTok creators and influencers whose content works best when it is fresh, personal and authentic, rather than scripted – but I believe it is the authenticity that key influencers and figures can provide that will boost local engagement with the next stage of the fight against this virus.

I often think about the impact of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had across social media. People connected with Brett and he became an unwitting celebrity totally organically. We should be rolling with that organic momentum to find creative ways to communicate the right message with audiences across social media platforms. 

User-generated content

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the world is constantly evolving, and we need to move with it. We know that people are searching for different content depending on the platform. Gen Z doesn’t come to TikTok for ads, they come to be entertained and to be involved in the conversation.

While the ‘walking brochure’ approach of the Government’s current TVC’s has its place, we cannot simply replicate those videos across all platforms and hope for the best. What about some out of the box thinking? We can, and should, move past infographics on Instagram and 2-minute videos on YouTube.

Why not follow The Guardian Australia’s lead with some informative but engaging TikToks? How about a Live Q&A between Aussies and their leading health professionals moderated by an influencer they can trust? Even the simple creation of a Facebook or Instagram filter, like the iconic Rainbow Filter we saw to people apply to their Facebook profile photos in support of our LGBTQI community, can allow people to publicly celebrate their newly vaccinated status.

@guardianaustraliaKevin-07? More like Kevin-less than 11% of the country full vaccinated. 📸AAP ##pfizer ##auspol ##scomo ##learnontiktok ##covid19 ##kevin07 @mrkrudd♬ original sound – Guardian Australia

Simple steps like this would encourage vaccine uptake and mean Government bodies could harness this user-generated content to encourage everyday Australians to look to their peers and community leaders as their call to action.

Considering a social-driven approach that prioritises individual stories and fosters real person-to-person engagement will be key to selling a product as personal as a vaccine. Let’s use our socials for good, and see how far they can take us in post-pandemic 2021.

 

Taryn Williams is the founder and CEO of the theright.fit and WINK Models.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash.

 

Found this article interesting? Read this article about whether an impactful campaign can overcome vaccine hesitancy.