36769 Social Media, Bars, and Young Adult Smoking

Jeffrey W. Jordan, MA, President, Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA, Michelle Kitson, BA, Integrated Marketing Strategies, Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA and Joseph Smyser, PhD, MSPH, Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA

Background:  Young adults (YAs) have particularly high rates of smoking and have proven resistant to traditional media-based anti-smoking campaigns. In addition, anti-smoking campaigns tend to focus on the health consequences of tobacco use without addressing the YA lifestyles that are strongly associated with tobacco use. This study tested two campaigns that exclusively used event-based and digital media-based efforts to reduce YA tobacco use.  

Program background:  HAVOC is a lifestyle branded anti-smoking campaign that targets YAs ages 18-26 who go to EDM clubs.  Commune is a lifestyle branded anti-smoking campaign that targets YAs ages 18-29 who are interested in local art, design, and music.  The goal of each is to aligning their YA’s cultural values with tobacco-free lifestyles using bar-based and digital efforts.

Evaluation Methods and Results:  The HAVOC campaign was implemented in Oklahoma and New Mexico and the Commune campaign in California and Vermont. Each campaign employed a similar strategy to reach its target audience, using a combination of tactics including social media, paid digital media, street teams, and live events to drive behavior change.   HAVOC and Commune each employ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to encourage engagement with the campaigns by regularly posting a mix of tobacco prevention messaging, event information and updates, lifestyle-specific content designed to resonate with the target audience, interactive online activities such as contests or polls, as well as user-generated content. Paid digital media strategies use lifestyle characteristics to precisely target campaign messages to each subpopulation of YAs. This effort tested strategies that drive traffic between platforms (ie: from Facebook to Instagram) to create reach young adults across multiple platforms on an ongoing basis.   Live events were held regularly and designed to demonstrate that the benefits of a smokefree lifestyle align with the values of YAs. In addition, events drove traffic online by posting pictures from the event, offering event incentives to digital subscribers and advertising digital platforms. In 2014, HAVOC achieved over 24k followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as 50k views on Youtube. HAVOC’s paid digital strategy reached 365,911 unique users which took 38,852 actions on Facebook. 36 on-the-ground events supported this strategy. In 2014, Commune achieved over 14k followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as 30k views on Youtube. The paid digital strategy reached 302,722 unique users which took 10,913 actions on Facebook. 28 on-the-ground events supported this strategy.

Conclusions:  Both campaigns successfully engaged YAs using its event-based and digital media-based efforts. Messaging was able to focus on tobacco-related issues that affect YAs, driving a significant number of actions across both campaigns. While traditional media has limitations reaching YAs, event and digital strategies can effectively engage this same population. 

Implications for research and/or practice:  Campaigns should consider employing a strategy that uses tactics to reach YAs where they are, namely social media and events.  By crafting messaging so that a smokefree lifestyle is aligned with the values of a particular subpopulation, difficult to reach populations can not only be reached, but can accept and take ownership of a campaign, significantly reducing barriers to lasting behavior change.