Online Program

Channeling the Conversation: How CDC used a hashtag campaign to focus the public's attention on tobacco's toll

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Margaret Silver, MPH, CHES, Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Diane Beistle, BA, CDC, Office on Smoking and Health, CDC, Atlanta, GA
The number of conversations happening online each day is staggering; on Twitter alone there are 500 million tweets a day. How do organizations cut through the clutter and channel users’ attention to one specific cause? Hashtag campaigns offer one solution.

A hashtag is a searchable term used on social media to brand content and make it easier to find amongst the multitude of online conversations. A well-branded hashtag can rally supporters, raise awareness, and give your cause momentum. Hosting a hashtag campaign can be a worthwhile endeavor for channeling the online conversation. CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health launched a campaign in 2014 entitled #20Million, to commemorate the lives lost to smoking in the past 50 years. The campaign provided online users with a space to share memories of those who died due to smoking and reached approximately 4.6 million individuals.

In developing the campaign several issues needed to be addressed, including what hashtag to use, how to collect and display submissions, what channels to target, when to end promotion, and how to create a permanent installation of the memorials. Despite logistical considerations this can be a low cost tactic for reaching large numbers of people, requiring few staff and resources to implement.

For public health organizations looking for a way to break through the chatter, hashtag campaigns can be a simple way to raise awareness across a broad number of online channels. It can bring individuals and partners into the conversation together and use their networks and online influence to expose vast numbers of users to a message.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Chronic disease management and prevention
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Design and evaluate hashtag campaigns for a given health topic. Formulate engaging hashtags, by analyzing current online conversations and assessing the proposed hashtag’s usability and relevance with the intended audience. List both free and paid resources for implementing and evaluating hashtag campaigns and other social media activities.

Keyword(s): CDC, Social Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I oversee all aspects of the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, including social media activities. I was deeply involved in developing the hashtag campaign.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.