Social Media Powerfully Influences Health Promotion

social media and health promotion 08/06/2015

A recent conversation with a psychologist on how Ayogo’s technology works, brought to mind one of our most influential blog posts on the powerful influence of social media and health promotion.

In that post we first introduced you to the now-famous Dan Ariely. Ariely has mentored and taught Ayogo’s team members and influenced Ayogo’s approach to designing mhealth, social games and social media applications. Ariely was interested in how Ayogo’s games and narrative elements increased engagement.  He was intrigued with our patient engagement platform Empower and its ability to promote positive choices through design. Empower was shaped by insights from Ariely’s Predictably Irrational: it uses gentle social persuasion and narratives that allow the user to open themselves to new beliefs, such as “I am the kind of person who makes healthy choices”.

Social psychology and behavioural economics explain the power of social media, showing experimentally that individuals’ initial attitudes are strengthened and intensified through social media discussion (Sarita & Boyd, 2010). We may take on more risky or more conservative choices than we would normally do as individuals, in response to the trends within our social group or social network. Dan Ariely often refers to Social Proof, where we are unconsciously swayed by the behaviour of a group, for example choosing the crowded restaurant over the well-reviewed, empty one.

deep social engagementThe secret? The power to engage is in the incoming messages!

Back in 2011, our confidence in social media exploded, having seen its power in supporting behaviour change in our first-to-the-market Facebook game. But our analysis of Healthseeker turned our understanding of social media on its head.  We saw that the power of social media was NOT in its power to broadcast and disseminate content. It was its ability to generate incoming messages that made Healthseeker a powerful social media tool for health promotion.  Specifically:

  • Peer-to-peer health challenges
  • Social minigames with gifting
  • Empathy-rich social spaces, such as health forums

Our analysis of Healthseeker, and other apps, showed that social media interactions amplify engagement.  Further, adding delight and playful elements in the form of gamification seems to multiply technology’s motivational impact. We even wrote a White Paper on it.

Today we are more convinced than ever in the power of social media- having piloted, tested and iterated our Empower for Obesity to be ever more social.ayogo empower platform on mobile

As technology becomes smarter, the core social experience has come alive. Texting, sharing, liking, video-chatting on our phones and tablets are now almost effortless. And the rich social experience – with content, friendship and technology seamlessly blended –  is what makes smartphones indispensable.

With the right design elements, social applications like Empower provide excellent channels for support, status, affinity, encouragement and positive feedback in healthcare settings.

Today patient-to-provider communication, peer-to-peer interaction, and socially-triggered patient action all prove that social features remain the most compelling design elements for patient engagement.

If you are one of the many healthcare systems ready to explore the power of social media and health promotion, find out more about Ayogo’s Empower platform. Please contact us today.