36773 Amplifying Positive Youth & Young Adult Influencers with Social Media

Tyler Janzen, BA1, Michelle Kitson, BA2 and Adam Bohannon, BA1, 1Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA, 2Integrated Marketing Strategies, Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA


The level of social influence someone has is crucial to shifting social norms within particular groups that share the same attitudes, beliefs, interests, and values. This is especially true for youth and young adults. In the age of social media, socially influential individuals that achieve widespread notoriety often have a large base of follows on their social media channels. By establishing relationships with these influencers and collaborating with them to support our campaign objectives, we can leverage the reach of their social media channels to amplify campaign message dissemination and reach a larger audience.

Program background: 

We implemented two different tobacco prevention campaigns: one targeting young adult Hipsters and the other, alternative teenagers. Each campaign tapped into the social influencers popular among their respective audiences to extend the reach of each campaign’s tobacco-free messages. However, because of key differences between the target audiences, the way we engaged these influencers and how we leveraged their social media channels was very different. Commune, a tobacco prevention campaign that targets young adult Hipsters, has an audience that values local art, music, and fashion and is highly cynical of messages from anyone perceived as an outsider. Commune uses this audience insight to create online contests that engage popular local artists, musicians, photographers, and vendors with large social media networks. The online contests encourage influencers to enter and promote their entries (usually some kind of creative project that communicates a tobacco-free message) using their social media networks to solicit votes.  Syke, a tobacco prevention campaign that targets alternative teens, also leverages social influencers by using their large social media networks to extend the campaign’s reach. However, the largest social influencers among alternative teens are popular nationally and internationally renowned bands. Instead of engaging them in contests that encourage them to self-promote their work, we partner with them to promote the campaign’s online contests and messages to the target youth. 

Evaluation Methods and Results: 

In 2014, Commune ran an online contest encouraging local artists to create and promote a poster about how the tobacco industry tested its products on animals. One of the three finalists had a Facebook following of nearly 120,000, many of whom were Commune’s target audience. This was 24 times the size of Commune’s Facebook page at the time.

Syke has worked with a wide variety of popular bands that are influential within the alternative teen culture. The combined online following of the top five bands that Syke has worked is over 6 million people, many of whom are within the brand’s target demographic. One post made by one of the bands received over 1200 likes, 51 shares and hundreds of comments.


Leveraging social influencers with large social media networks is an effective way to extend the reach of campaign messages for public health interventions.

Implications for research and/or practice: 

Behavior change interventions focused on shifting cultural norms within teen or young adult populations could benefit from fostering relationships with social influencers that have large social media networks.