Social Media is About Relationships

It’s common knowledge how important it is to use social media for events and specific campaigns. But often, what’s missing is authentic engagement. Social media should tell a specific story that connects with the audience and invites a two-way conversation. While we might not always see the person posting the content, we still need to feel a real human connection to them.

Recently, we put these audience engagement strategies to the test in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) annual National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) event.

Our goal was to create a national conversation about children’s mental health that empowers people to tell their story and empathize with the stories of others through social and digital media. By weaving powerful storytelling and authenticity into promotional efforts, the national event was able to reach close to 200,000 people and create more than 120 million media impressions with children’s mental health messaging. The event also was the third most successful online event in SAMHSA’s history and achieved success without any paid social media or a dedicated Awareness Day channel.

How was all this possible? Because we understood that social media is about relationships. Here are four ways we collaborated with SAMHSA to build a human connection with the online audience for Awareness Day 2016.

1. Tell a specific story.

We made frequent storytelling requests leading up to the national event to the Awareness Day collaborating organizations. We asked them to use their networks to share Awareness Day promotional messages, which ensured we extended messaging to audiences we wouldn’t normally reach. Leading up to the event, we emailed collaborating organizations daily sample social media messages and corresponding visuals to make it easy for them to share and keep Awareness Day messages front and center. We also used a common event hashtag, #Heroesofhope, to focus conversations so audiences felt like they were part of a larger movement. As a result, #Heroesofhope was the second most widely used hashtag in Washington, DC, the evening of the national event — a first for Awareness Day!

2. Use real content to reach real people.

We encouraged collaborating organizations to share resources for parents via social media around how to find services and supports for their child. Youth and young adults experiencing mental health challenges throughout the country used social media to share their stories of hope in an authentic and powerful way. In addition, collaborating organizations hosted several Twitter chats to engage individuals around solutions for finding help for children with mental health challenges.

3. Give a face to the event.

People want to know the face behind the person posting the messages. SAMHSA selected a member of its leadership to “take over” SAMHSA’s Twitter handle for the day. The profile picture for SAMHSA’s handle was changed to a picture of the Director of the Center for Mental Health Services, Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, and all the posts for the day showed his experience and perspective leading up to the national event that evening. The audience felt more connected to the event as a result, and the communication became more authentic.

4. Engage your audience in a unique way.

Most people are overloaded with information on social media. We knew we had to engage our audience in a unique way to grab their attention. Before the national event, celebrity guests and speakers shared “getting ready” and pre-event photos to create excitement and anticipation for the event. The audience was able to get a backstage experience that was unique and candid leading up to the event.

For more Awareness Day content, check out the day’s Storify!