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COVID-19 and Meta: Social and Behavioral Change Communication Learnings from 20 Countries

A mockup showing Facebook and Instagram posts from CARE Philippines, CARE Haiti, and CARE Nigeria.

Creative themes that equal success

As we continue to encounter millions around the world who are either vaccine hesitant or in places where vaccines are not yet available, CARE has worked to understand the ways social media can serve as a social and behavior change communication tool to improve public health. Through a groundbreaking partnership with Meta, CARE tested boosted posts to understand what kinds of messaging works best to increase COVID prevention behaviors and vaccine acceptance.

Throughout 2021, CARE launched 45 locally-led campaigns in 20 countries applying lessons learned during an eight-week training series with Meta. In the second half of 2021, participating countries built on their learnings from their first campaigns and attempted to answer new questions that arose all while creating culturally appropriate messaging to encourage the adoption of preventative behaviors and/or to build trust in the vaccine, even if it wasn’t yet available. Although campaign creative was locally developed to respond to unique challenges in each country, CARE wondered if there were universal lessons learned that could be applied globally as social media evolves as a potential tool to drive social and behavioral change.

The TL;DR Summary?

  • Trusted messengers are one of the biggest drivers of post engagement. While trusted messengers such as doctors, celebrities, and faith leaders proved powerful, “regular people” like CARE Staff sharing authentic experiences were just, if not more, influential. This was true across all seven countries that tested trusted messengers – Bangladesh, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, and USA. Similarly, in all CARE campaigns that tested Real People vs. Cartoon imagery, real people not only had stronger communication performance indicators (Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan), they also drove higher brand lift when we were able to do a multicell test (Bangladesh, Nigeria, USA). This made sense but was also surprising as many campaigns that ran earlier in the year used cartoon images and had strong results.
  • Personalization is key. Campaigns that personalized content by demographic (CARE Bangladesh), language (CARE Guatemala), and connected it to culture (CARE India) saw communication metrics that were double and triple CARE’s benchmarks.
  • Context, context, context. A nuanced understanding of current events, the latest COVID news and policies and cultural distinctions were key. Campaigns that were able to triangulate all three typically had standout communication metrics. Campaigns that did not align underperformed.

Top Shared Creative

These were the top shared ads across all countries based on Share Rate.

The creative posts that were most shared used Trusted Messengers (CARE Bangladesh), had high current event relevancy (CARE Philippines), or had high relevance to breaking news about COVID (CARE Bangladesh). Other top shared content focused on personal stories – testimonial-like content from “real people”. Content with high share rates also had high comment rates.

Top Commented Creative

These were some of the ads with the highest Comment Rates across all campaigns.

FREE TO LIVE – Highest Intent to Vaccinate

CARE Ghana, CARE Nigeria, and CARE USA speak to freedom and dream lives.

CARE Ghana, CARE Nigeria, and CARE USA all shared messaging about “Free to live,” a messaging theme identified through social listening and data from John Hopkins University. These ads drove some of the highest share rates as well as click through rates (CTR) to learn more about registering for a vaccine. In Nigeria, their campaign saw a 56% conversion rate where viewers clicked through from the campaign landing page to a page where they could register for a vaccine.

In addition, these campaigns saw averages of a +3pt lift in Brand Lift Studies, above our 2pt goal. For example, CARE Nigeria saw a +4.3pt lift in females 35-44 around their attitude that the vaccine was safe for breastfeeding mothers. In Ghana, when asked about vaccine safety, there was a +3.9 lift in females aged 35-44 and +4.9pt lift for males of that age group who thought the vaccine was safe vs. the control group. And, in the USA, we saw a lift in vaccine acceptance (social norming): +2.3pts overall, with the largest lift in males 45-54 (4.9pts) and males 25-34 (3.2pts). Want to dive deeper? Read more about the CARE USA campaign.

Trusted Messengers are Key

Seven countries featured a variety of trusted messengers in campaigns. Whether it was an influential doctor, faith leader, or CARE Staff, all found success.

Both CARE Bangladesh and CARE Somalia used the trusted messenger of a well-known female doctor and saw share rates +300% above their goal (0.58% and 0.50% respectively). The combination of a recognizable medical professional seemed to perform even better than an unknown doctor.

CARE Staff were seen as Trusted Messengers in Somalia, Haiti, and Mali

In many countries with local initiatives, CARE Staff are well-loved and seen as highly trustworthy. In fact, many existing followers recognized the staff and called them out favorably in the comments. This was particularly true for CARE Mali who featured CARE’s Regional Director for West Africa as one of the trusted messengers.

CARE Haiti’s video had a 26% engagement rate and received over 7,000 likes, comments, and shares. All these videos had over an average of 10-seconds of watch time, above the 3-second industry average.

Real People vs. Cartoons

Several countries tested ads that featured real people vs. ads that featured cartoons. Across all countries that tested this, real people won in terms of engagement and CTR.

CARE Iraq saw a +82% increase in CTR in videos with Real People vs. Cartoons.

CARE Pakistan also had a mix of Real People and Cartoon images.

While the message of these images varied too much for a true test, the Real People images outperformed across all communication metrics (+57% Engagement Rate). Real People images particularly resonated with 15–17-year-olds.

For CARE Nigeria, Real People drove 325% more engagements than the cartoon images.

“Call Now” Message Has Mixed Results

CARE Benin, Haiti, and Turkey promoted Emergency Information Hotlines.

Several countries promoted an Emergency Hotline number in their ads. Unfortunately, because they were emergency numbers, Meta did not recognize them as valid numbers and we could not always use the “Call Now” button for easy tap-to-call functionality (CARE Benin, CARE Guatemala). For those that did feature a number, CTR was low, but we wonder if that was because people were taking the desired action of calling!

+3.6pt Lift in Attitude Around Vaccine Safety

CARE Turkey personalized messages to refugee mothers and inspired 6,300+ Taps to “Call Now”

CARE Turkey reached female refugees of child-bearing age and encouraged them to get more information through their existing emergency hotline. Eighty-five percent of their reach was on Instagram, which was an eye-opening insight about where this important demographic was the most active.

Personalization Wins Every Time

Bangladesh featured creative and messaging specifically for students who needed to register differently. They saw a +2900% increase in comments on personalized posts.

The “Zoom” creative had 3k+ comments, a +2900% increase vs. the campaign average. These ads also saw high share rates and a +14% increase in CTR vs. the campaign averages.

Translations Increase Watch Times +333%

CARE Guatemala translated their video into 4 Mayan dialects to connect with hard-to-reach populations. The video translated to regional dialects drove more engagement and higher share rates than the video in Spanish, particularly in regions like Izabel and Alta Veraoaz. The video was watched for an average of 13 seconds, +333% above the 3-second average.

CARE Guatemala's video was translated into regional dialects.

Connecting To Culture – Drives 2x Engagement

CARE India used popular art forms – Warli Art and Shadow Puppets to depict prevention methods. In Maharashtra where Warli Art was created, this ad resonated particularly well, with a 40% engagement rate, 2x the campaign average. Overall, the Warli Art ad had the 2nd most shares.

Current Event Context Matters

CARE Philippines and CARE Czech Republic felt the impact of current events.

CARE Philippines focused on the importance of mothers and teachers being vaccinated. Schools were just reopening during this time and going back safely was a trending topic of conversation. Over 5,400 iMessage conversations were started from the ads with many sharing how appreciative they were that CARE was supporting teachers getting vaccinated as a priority.

Czech Republic’s Ministry of Health had previously tested similar creative with strong results. However, by the time CARE launched this campaign, national elections were coming up and the media was focused on topics unrelated to COVID. The pandemic was all but forgotten and people felt like the problems mentioned in the ads were already in the past. Read the full story.

Keep It Simple – CARE Sierra Leone has 26.3pt Ad Recall

Simple messages, particularly around prevention, had standout results in CARE India and CARE Sierra Leone.

CARE India was surprised by their top performing ad that had a very simple message and interaction between a doctor and a village. This ad had 5,400+ shares and was saved over 2,100 times – an engagement rate of 14%. CARE Sierra Leone had an overall 15.8pt Ad Recall on this simple and eye-catching ad. For men 18-24, Ad Recall jumped to 26.3pts, the highest of any country!

Facts Drive Engagement, But Not Intent

CARE Yemen and CARE USA myth busting campaigns did not drive attitude or behavior change.

While CARE Yemen’s ads had a +8pt Ad Recall, they drove little lift in attitude and behavior changes. The CARE USA myth busting campaign also had low results across both communication and behavioral change metrics. We wonder if people interested in this type of message were too early in their journeys as these types of ads were clearly memorable. Read the full U.S. Results here.

Episodic Content Has Standout Results

Episodic-like content had the highest communication and lifts in attitude changes in Burundi, Haiti, and USA.

CARE Burundi created 3-long form videos featuring real people. The campaign also incorporated a mix of shorter videos and static images. The content along with the mix of formats seems to be a key contributor in strong communication metrics as well as positive brand lift results.

CARE Burundi had 63% engagement and a share rate +79% above benchmark.

The static image of this CARE staff member drove 293 clicks to register for a vaccine, an astounding 28% conversion rate and the most driven by any single ad.

This campaign also demonstrated strong lift for social norming – “When you think of most people whose opinion you value, how much would they approve of people getting a COVID-19 vaccine?” – driving +2.3pts, with the largest lift in males 45-54 (4.9pts) and males 25-34 (3.2pts). Read the full results here.

In addition to videos with CARE Staff as trusted messengers, CARE Haiti launched a 3-part comic series on the importance of mask wearing. The comic was released over a period of time and people anxiously awaited the next part in this story! Many WhatsApp messages even begged them to share it early. 5.1k people started a WhatsApp conversation and 5% (130k) tapped on the images to zoom in or see the next frame. Ad Recall was +9pts in Males 45-54 and 2.8pts overall. Vaccine Importance was +1.7pts overall and +3.6pts in Females 18-24.

Innovation In Ad Formats

CARE Palestine – West Bank/Gaza tested a carousel unit.

CARE Palestine's ad showed a carousel displaying the steps to getting a vaccine.

CARE Palestine – West Bank/Gaza used a simple, direct message in a carousel unit to encourage people to register for a vaccine. While CTR of 0.32% was strong, it was not as strong as their H1 CTR on single image units.

CARE Cambodia uses Lead Ads for survey purposes.

Because Khmer, the official language of Cambodia and the main language spoken by garment workers, was not available in Meta’s Brand Lift tool, CARE Cambodia tested “Lead Ads” in an innovative way to recreate Meta’s Brand Lift Study experience. Each Lead Ad showed one question (similar to Meta’s UX) and the ads were targeted by demo/age and split into Test/Control groups, to easily identify and codify responses. Using this ad format was a scalable and cost-effective way to recreate an online survey experience.

Rapid Response Testing

CARE USA and CARE Nigeria tested rapid response messaging.

With the vaccines available for ages 5 and up, CARE USA quickly put into market a “Vaccinate Your Whole Family” campaign at the end of December. While communication metrics were some of our lowest, people who did click to “Learn More” had one of the highest overall conversion rates (5%) to click from the landing page to the CDC site to register for a vaccine. CARE Nigeria’s campaign, focused on women of child-bearing age, was launched shortly after announcements that women who were pregnant or breastfeeding were eligible for a vaccine.

What’s Next?

CARE Country Offices are continuing to build on lessons learned in this initial year. To continue learning, CARE is creating a Community of Practice for social media so that staff across the organization can continue learning and innovating on how social media could be one of the tools CARE uses to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice.

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