Listen Up: How Social Listening is Driving Youth-Powered Healthcare

By Andrea Novella, PASMO’s Regional Manager of Social Media

Under the tongue-in-cheek name Úsala Bien (Use it Well), PSI’s Central American network member, PASMO (Pan American Social Marketing Organization) is using popular social media channels like Instagram and Facebook to help increase access to contraception for youth across Central America and the Caribbean. Úsala Bien provides online sexual education in fun and creative ways, as a part of the Youth 3.0 program strategy to help reduce the staggeringly high rate of teen pregnancy in the region. These digital platforms help connect youth to peer outreach workers who provide online contraceptive counseling and referrals to youth-friendly healthcare service providers. 

Word cloud generated from data of online user content collected by Social Listening.

One of the most innovative assets in PASMO’s arsenal of digital tools is Social Listening, a software designed to identify keywords and phrases across user content posted on online channels such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  The data is mined and centralized into a dashboard that provides real-time access to public conversations happening in the digital sphere.

From January 1st through June 30th, 2019, Social Listening identified 5.9 thousand online conversations with 74.6 million potential impressions in the region, all occurring around topics related to contraception, including pregnancy prevention, birth control methods, and the morning-after pill. These conversations, a combination of posts, videos and images shared publicly by users, enable the Social Media team at PASMO to home in on key insights that help drive the program’s digital strategy, inspire content creation, and even impact their advertising campaign.

Leveraging Social Listening and identifying innovative ways to apply it to improve access to information and services is a successful methodology to bring healthcare closer to youth. It helps support consumer powered healthcare by driving decision-making based on user needs and desires- and it certainly pays off.

On average, posts based on Social Listening insights obtain higher engagement than other content, which helps to increase the number of young men and women reaching out for information and referrals to contraceptive methods. It also helps drive a communication strategy that truly connects with youth in their own language, marking the difference when it comes to successfully engaging youth.

Social Listening helped identify that most conversations included the word “contraceptives” instead of “family planning”, and insight that led to a shift in communications and was fundamental in contributing to the campaign’s popularity.  It also identified common myths and misconceptions that continue to create barriers between youth and contraceptive uptake, which Úsala Bien is working to address by providing information and one-on-one online peer behavior change interventions.  

The impact of social listening can be truly life-changing. Take Leyla*, a 22-year-old young woman from Guatemala, who credits the content on Úsala Bien with changing her perception around her sexuality and contraception.  Motivated by content addressing key insights identified in Social Listening, she reached out to the program through a private message on Instagram and was connected to a Cyber Educator, who provided her with a referral to a clinic that made her feel “totally comfortable”. There, she obtained what she expresses to be “the best birth control method for me” which she believes will support her in achieving her dreams of graduating from the university and pursuing a career in the mental healthcare sector.

Leyla shared that she feels much more confident now that she has a contraceptive method for the first time, and describes the content posted on the Úsala Bien as “helping youth to take care of their bodies and futures”. She’s passionate about sharing it with others, stating it helps counteract cultural limitations and societal stigma faced by youth, supporting them in exerting their sexual and reproductive rights and reduces the barriers towards decision-making about their own bodies and their lives.

A summary of key findings from PASMO’s Social Listening tool.

In a society where contraception for youth is still considered a taboo subject, providing affordable access to information, education and services that are free of judgment and discrimination is key to reducing the high rate of teenage pregnancy. Social listening, by providing a gateway that directly connects to consumer insights in real-time, is redefining the ability to put youth at the forefront of youth-focused programming, in turn allowing them to be key contributors to program design.

Banner image courtesy of PASMO El Salvador/Carlos Pineda

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