Social media can improve lives post-disaster: study

Newly published research has shown the important role social media can play supporting health and wellbeing following a disaster.

UC Associate Professor of Marketing Ekant Veer (pictured right), of the College of Business and Law, says the All Right? campaign’s approach to social media ticked all the right boxes. All Right? manager Sue Turner says Facebook has helped to open up and normalise conversations about health and wellbeing.
UC Associate Professor of Marketing Ekant Veer (pictured right), of the College of Business and Law, says the All Right? campaign’s approach to social media ticked all the right boxes. All Right? manager Sue Turner says Facebook has helped to open up and normalise conversations about health and wellbeing.

Social media plays a major role in our health and wellbeing following a disaster. It can increase happiness and nurture your social circle. But depending on who you are, social media can potentially also make you unhappy and more isolated.

The All Right? wellbeing campaign was created in 2013 to support people’s mental health and wellbeing following the devastating Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. One aspect of the overall campaign was the utilization of social media as a means of promoting wellbeing messages. This research evaluates the use of the All Right? Facebook page as a means of promoting wellbeing after a major natural disaster.

Paper co-author, University of Canterbury Associate Professor of Marketing Ekant Veer, of the College of Business and Law, says “the All Right? campaign’s approach to social media 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.”

“What All Right? has shown is that by getting the tone right, tapping into people’s everyday experiences, and alternating between engaging and specialized content, social media can be a force for good.”

For the study, quantitative and qualitative methods to gather the data about the social media component of the All Right? campaign. Findings indicate that the All Right? Facebook page has become a valued source of consistent wellbeing tips and advice -the place that I go’.

85% of respondents to an online survey had taken action as a result of what they had seen on the All Right? Facebook page. Facebook page agreed that the page was helpful (98%), gave people ideas of things that they can do to help themselves (96%), and made people think about their wellbeing (93%).

Assoc Prof Veer said, “The Facebook page goes far beyond simply telling people what’s good for them. It’s led to actual behavior change that is improving the wellbeing of people in Canterbury. The level of behavior change that All Right? has achieved is phenomenal.”

All Right? manager Sue Turner said, “Facebook has helped to open up and normalize conversations about health and wellbeing.”

“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.”

“Facebook is one of many tools All Right? uses to grow to understand 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.”

“Social marketing can never replace specialist mental health services, but it can play a much bigger role in building resilience and promoting mental health and wellbeing across a population. As the evaluation shows, when done properly, social media can make a really positive difference in people’s lives.”

Research on the impact of the campaign’s social media activity was recently published in the journal Health Promotion International.