Expecting Too Much



Twitter was still relatively new in 2011, and organisations were still getting their heads around how to use it. Up and down the country NHS Primary Care Trusts (we still had PCT’s then) were setting up accounts and posting content to patients and the public in their area. I was working with quite a few different PCTs at the time and I followed several of their Twitter accounts. I started noticing at weekends, right on the hour, a string of NHS tweets would appear on my timeline. It seemed some of them had set up auto-tweets out of work hours.

Here is one I came across on Saturday 11th October at exactly 6.00pm. It said, “If you are thinking of having a cigarette, remember it could kill you ow.ly/7bWFt”

(The link no longer works. I assume it's because we no longer have PCTs and NHS Suffolk no longer exists.)

Aside from it appearing that the social media manager thought they’d “do one on smoking” in the weekend’s auto-tweets, for this message to have had any impact on behaviour change for an individual within NHS Suffolk’s target audience, the following had to have been in place:

• The person had to have a Twitter account.

• They had to be a smoker living, or working, in Suffolk (so they could count them in their KPIs).

• They had to follow NHS Suffolk (to see their tweets).

• They had to be looking on twitter at exactly 6.00pm on a Saturday (or it would have become quickly hidden in their timeline by more recent tweets).

• They would have to be thinking of having a cigarette any time soon (the tweet probably helped there!).

• They had to actually read the tweet.

• They had to suddenly become afraid for their lives and feel the urge to click on the shortened, contextless ow.ly link to find out how to save themselves!

• If they had clicked on the link they would have had to read a page or two about the tobacco policy information… keep reading past the bit about relative cancer risks… and the message from the local Director of Public Health…. and eventually they would have found a phone number for the Stop Smoking Service… which was closed on Saturdays.

I wonder how far people got through that funnel.

NHS Suffolk weren’t wrong to use Twitter as a vehicle to share a health improvement message, it just wasn’t well thought through.

Questions for you.

• Can you put yourself in the shoes of the people you are hoping to reach and ask yourself, would a real person, a real customer, manage to step their way through all the stages required for your service or product to make a difference to them?

• Are you making it easy for customers or are you asking just a bit too much from them?

• Do you secretly not think it will make any difference, but at least it keeps you looking busy?

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