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Social media can improve lives after a disaster

22 Feb 2019
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Social media. Love it or hate it, it can actually improve people’s lives after a disaster, according to new research.

In 2013 a campaign called All Right? was designed to support people’s health and wellbeing following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

The campaign did really well on social media – according to the research, 85% of people had taken action based on what they saw on the All Right? Facebook page.

The research found that 98% of respondents found All Right?’s Facebook posts were helpful; 97% said posts made respondents think about how they were feeling; 97% say the posts gave respondents ideas about things they could do to help themselves; and 93% say the posts regularly made respondents think about their wellbeing.

According to paper co-author and University of Canterbury associate professor of marketing, Ekant Veer, All Right? ticked all the right boxes.

"While social media provides a great platform to have a conversation with a community, a lot of the time it can fall flat or feel preachy," he says.

But this time it was different – it doesn’t tell people what’s good for them, it encouraged actual behaviour change that improved Canterbury residents’ wellbeing, he explains.

When you understand people’s everyday experiences, post engaged and specialised content and get the tone right, social media can be a force for good.

"Everyone is an expert in their own wellbeing, and Facebook enables us to gather people’s own ideas on what makes them happy, and amplify these wide and far. It’s created a community of people who feel more connected, more accepted and more informed,” says All Right? manager Sue Turner. 

She believes Facebook has helped to normalise and open up conversations about health and wellbeing. She also says the research shows that mental health promotion is important.

"Facebook is one of many tools All Right? uses to grow understanding of how people can look after their wellbeing. Growing emotional literacy can encourage you to do more of the things that make you feel good, improve your quality of life, and help to reduce the need for service-level care.”

She adds that social marketing can’t replace specialist mental health services, but it can help to promote mental health, wellbeing, and resilience.

"As the evaluation shows, when done properly, social media can make a really positive difference in people’s lives," Turner concludes.