Posts tagged ‘twitter’
Every Person Has a Right to be Healthy: An Interview with Susan Harrington from the Boston Public Health Commission
Susan Harrington, the assistant director of communications at the Boston Public Health Commission, was a guest lecturer in Online Consumer Health. From infectious disease to violence prevention and nutrition, Susan promotes the work of the Commision’s 33 program areas. Using a combination of traditional and social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, Susan designs targeted social marketing campaigns to prevent disease and protect the health of Boston’s residents. I interviewed Susan about her recent initiatives to improve Boston’s health.
Lisa Gualtieri: During your guest lecture, you talked about some of the successful initiatives to reach teenagers with health messages. Which campaign was most successful and why?
Susan Harrington: The Boston SexED campaign. We went directly to Boston teens to ask them what was important to them. They didn’t just inform the campaign; they developed the concept, actively worked to get the word out, and helped their fellow teens answer these important questions. The Facebook conversations were lively while informative. We had a great reach in terms of the number of teens that either saw the campaign or participated in it. We continue to look at the hard data to see if there is any decrease in the number of sexually transmitted infections among teens.
Lisa Gualtieri: H1N1 is obviously on many people’s minds. What are the types of information you are providing? Can you also talk about your use of twitter to provide updates on line lengths at clinics?
Susan Harrington: We are providing everything there is to know about the flu, both seasonal and H1N1. This includes how to prevent the flu, the difference between the cold and flu, what to do if you get the flu, vaccine safety, and clinic information. As much as we are trying to get this important information out, we are always listening to what questions people may have. We develop videos and information guides to address their questions. In fact, our flu prevention campaign and video, “Talkin’ ‘bout the Flu”, is being replicated in other cities and counties nationwide for its innovative approach to the topic. In addition to traditional marketing, we used Facebook and Twitter to relay our message, garnering attention across the globe. Speaking of which, the Boston Public Health Commission is hosting a number of H1N1 flu clinics throughout the winter. We have used Twitter and Facebook to provide updates, including what people should bring, line lengths, etc. People responded back to us saying they checked online before they walked out the door, or even on their phone, so they were fully informed when they got to the clinic. They helped to retweet our posts and even posted some of their own. We love all of our Twitter followers and Facebook fans.
Lisa Gualtieri: What are the most common languages used in Boston? Why did you decide to use a translation program instead of providing translations of key information?
Susan Harrington: Boston is incredibly diverse. In addition to English, the top five spoken languages in no particular order are Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese), Haitian Creole, and Portuguese. All of our materials go through a rigorous translation process. First, if there are funds available, any document is translated by a native speaker at a translation company. The document is then reviewed and edited by a native speaker on-staff for accuracy. (If there are no funds, then the native speaker on-staff completes the translation and is a reviewed by a second native speaker.) We tried to provide the same quality of translation at one time for our website. However, because the website changes daily, it is difficult to update the translated versions at the same fast rate. Also, we wanted to provide a larger range of languages, such as Albanian and Russian. We reviewed multiple online translation mechanisms and our on-staff translators were a key component in this process. Machine translation is never 100% accurate, but we hope to provide some translated content. However, our key information, such as fact sheets, brochures, etc., are all translated by humans. We don’t want to lose anything in translation and lose the trust of the residents we are trying to serve and protect.
Lisa Gualtieri: Have you gotten feedback on the translation services?
Susan Harrington: For the most part, the human translation is accurate and easy-to-understand. But, just as any two English speakers may use different expressions, so too with non-English speakers. For example, a Spanish-speaker from Puerto Rico may have different expressions than someone from Guatemala. We aim to use the language and expressions most common in Boston, but there are always differences.
Lisa Gualtieri: With no budget constraints, what would you do next?
Susan Harrington: Wow, what a question. In my role in communications, I have loved bringing attention to important issues, starting the difficult conversations, and hopefully improving the lives and health of my fellow Bostonians. If money were no object, I would expand the number of marketing campaigns to focus on overlooked projects and extend the great campaigns that we have had. Often times though, it’s more than about money. It’s about getting everyone involved in an issue because, even though they may not think it, they can make a difference. Every community, every person, has a right to be healthy.
In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, Clay Shirky discusses why some social networks stick while others collapse. Wikipedia is one of his examples of a success. When I looked at Qwitter, my first reaction was it was a failure because there were only 614 people using it. Qwitter, a cleverly-named initiative from TobaccoFreeFlorida that harnesses Twitter, is promoted as “a social tool designed to help you quit smoking” through keeping track of daily cigarettes and feelings about smoking. They also provide tips. That 614 people signed up for Qwitter seems low given that 750 people sign up for Twitter daily and 3 million people use it.
My initial reaction was reinforced by looking at how Qwitter was used, since many of the users had started in April (due to launch publicity, I speculated) and had stopped using it after a few – or just one – use. This is notable given that many Twitter users tweet many times daily. Looking through Qwitter users, I finally found a recent and more sustained user who tweeted pretty regularly for the past month, although there didn’t seem to be any cessation taking place.
My Qwitter perusal indicates that most users do not stop smoking. However, there is no indication who the 614 people are – people who are trying yet another approach to quit smoking or people who were lured by an innovative technological approach and go on to try another. If even a small number of people stop smoking because of Qwitter, it may well be considered a success, especially since the cost of creating it should have been low since it was built on Twitter which is free.
I wish I could report that my computer can read my mind. It may come in Web X.0. Until then, I continue to enjoy many Web 2.0 features. I recently played with Twitter, amazed that so many people apparently are interested in the activities and whereabouts of so many other people. Is Twitter the inverse of a calendar – a calendar tells one what to do and Twitter reports on what is being or has been done?
As I was trying to determine the perceived societal benefits of Twitter, I can across a lovely Web 2.0 feature where immediate feedback is given on the availability of your user name as you type it in. How refreshing to not have to submit something, wait for it to be processed, and then act upon the results. Other sites do similar things; WordPress’ registration gives immediate feedback on the “strength” of a password as it is being entered. My favorite Web 2.0 example is the slider bars in Kayak to refine a travel search in place.
While it is great to not have to submit a request, wait for it to be processed, make changes, and resubmit, I would prefer mind-reading, which will undoubtedly be available in Web X.0. Ideally mobile mind-reading so I am no longer tethered to my computer. Perhaps then Twitter’s usefulness will be more apparent to me, since I will be off dancing or at the movies, not typing at my computer.