Background: In August of 2013, CDC launched a digital campaign to encourage people to embrace their inner Public Health Nerd (#PHNerd) and share their passion for public health with others.
Program background: CDC’s #PHNerd is a visual, hashtag campaign, which uses social media optimized graphics to promote awareness about CDC’s role and work to protect the nation’s health and safety; to encourage learning and public health knowledge; to bring awareness to priority topics and public health news; and to facilitate conversation and sharing in and amongst public health professionals and people who care about improving and saving lives.
Evaluation Methods and Results: The campaign was evaluated with each release of a new graphic and between releases to see how conversation was sustained. We used free evaluation tools, such as integrated social media dashboards and Radian 6 for a more comprehensive look across channels. Not only were organic, engagement metrics with our cmpaign content extremely high, we also saw users creating their own content and tagging with #PHNerd. The campaign was also taken offline by a public health department, which printed #PHNerd graphics on road race t-shrits with motivational slogans.
Conclusions: Designing low resource, high return hashtag campaigns requires creativity, strategic timing and consistent design elements that speak to and motivate your target audiences to embrace a call-to-action. Conversation and social sharing is sustained through identification with a brand, and inspiration on the part of users to embrace and expand on the message using a dedicated hashtag.
Implications for research and/or practice: Public health is a serious matter, but not all of our messaging has to be heavy. The human condition yearns to both cry and laugh and we, as practitioners, can deeply connect on the lighter side of life and still deliver the weight of the message and call-to-action. Social media is a perfect medium for tapping into a user's personal connection with your content and learning more about how their journey crosses paths with that message and why it's meaningful to them.