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COVID-19 and Social Media: Using Facebook to Drive Social and Behavioral Change in 19 Countries

Three mockups of sample Facebook image and video posts on iPhones on a light purple background.

Through a groundbreaking partnership with Facebook, CARE Country Offices have begun to understand what kind of messaging works best to increase COVID prevention behaviors and vaccine acceptance.

Even before COVID-19 began its relentless spread around the world, CARE was providing comprehensive guidance and WHO guidelines to its staff and global offices. Since those early days, CARE has been distributing public health messages, hygiene kits, and clean water to help communities protect themselves from infection. Today, CARE is working to ensure fast and fair vaccine distribution to everyone, everywhere. As we continue to encounter millions around the world who are either vaccine resistant or in places where vaccines are not yet available, we have worked to improve knowledge and understanding of the ways social media can apply social and behavior change communication strategies to improve public health. Through a groundbreaking partnership with Facebook, we have begun to understand what kinds of messaging works best to increase COVID prevention behaviors and vaccine acceptance.

In the spring of 2021, CARE staff from 19 CARE Country Offices participated in an 8-week workshop to learn how to run social and behavioral change communications (SBCC) campaigns on the Facebook platform. Participants explored strategies to create 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.

Staff from CARE Country Offices developed locally led campaigns using lessons learned during the eight-week series that responded to specific needs in each country’s context.

CARE Country Office staff prepared thoughtful campaigns by first researching hesitant populations, working to understand the source of that vaccine hesitancy and what arguments motivate changes in attitudes, knowledge and / or behavior. Then, each team created ads with messages designed to motivate the hesitant audience. Campaigns were then uploaded to the Facebook platform and results were monitored weekly.

Varied Approaches:

In some countries, the COVID vaccine was not yet available when the campaigns launched. These countries focused on COVID prevention as the virus spiked around the world.

CARE Sierra Leone
CARE Guatemala
CARE Sierra Leone

In Bangladesh, the team timed messages to Eid celebrations to remind people to be careful about traveling and social distancing during big celebrations. This practical value message was one of CARE Bangladesh’s top performers.

CARE Bangladesh social graphic for Eid Mubarak encouraging people to stay safe from the pandemic.

Several countries identified the need to help parents talk to their children about COVID and the importance of preventative behaviors. Both CARE Cambodia and CARE Somalia created this kind of messaging for parents. Each team created fun, animated videos that were their top performing posts. These posts also enjoyed the most Facebook saves, a rare, high impact behavior seen on Facebook. Somalia’s video featured a celebrity singer who created a song about COVID prevention.

CARE Cambodia
CARE Somalia

Bangladesh created fun, quick animations that infused a little humor. It turns out a little humor can go a long way as their share rate was +114% above their goal.

CARE Ghana created quick videos that highlighted methods to prevent COVID-19. These videos/images drove high engagement.

CARE Ghana social media graphic encouraging people to stay safe from COVID-19 by maintaining physical distancing.

CARE Haiti aimed to build trust in the vaccine even though it was not yet available. To understand their efficacy, the Haiti team tested message cadence. People either saw two preventative ads (below left), a single vaccine message (below right) which says, “We are ready for the vaccine! Are you?” or they saw all three. Combined, these posts received 33,000 engagements – reactions, comments, shares, and clicks.

CARE Czech Republic tested the importance of ad frequency, optimizing the campaign so that people saw their video ad 10 times. Interestingly, at a frequency of five, the video completion rate was very high, but the click through rate (CTR) for more information about the vaccine was low. Then, on the 6th – 10th view, behavior started to shift. Video completion decreased but clicks to register increased significantly.

CARE Czech Republic social media video showing ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

CARE Turkey had a unique audience strategy. They targeted refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan and tested a fact-based message, “Safe & Effective” messaging and a “Protect the Community” message. Across all three countries, the “protect the community” message was the strongest showing a +22% increase in CTR over the others.

Safe and Effective
Protect the Community

CARE Philippines tapped into a cultural value related to the greater good to encourage social norming around the importance of getting vaccinated.

CARE Palestine / West Bank / Gaza promoted vaccine registration through a variety of messages, testing “Stay Healthy,” “Protect your Loved Ones” and “Register Now.”

Stay Healthy
Protect Your Loved Ones
Register Now

The simple, direct “Register Now” was the top performer driving a +347% increase in CTR over the other messages. The CTR has been an important success indicator since many of CARE’s posts drive viewers to local ministry of health or similar websites where individuals can find out more about the vaccine and/or make an appointment to be vaccinated.

CARE Benin / Togo encouraged people to get vaccinated with four messages. The first two featured messages (see below) encouraging viewers to save lives and reminding people that vaccinations are free (image not shown). CARE Benin / Togo followed up with a “Get Vaccinated Like Me” ad and a more direct “Register to Get Vaccinated” ad.

Get Vaccinated Like Me
Save Lives
Register Now

CARE Benin / Togo’s “Get Vaccinated Like Me” message drove 12.3k post reactions, while the stronger “Register” message had the 56% more outbound clicks than the average.

CARE Cambodia created videos explaining what to expect when arriving for a vaccine appointment.

India created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) video to answer common questions about the vaccine.

CARE India social media graphic that says,


CARE Country Offices collectively reached 270 million people in 19 countries through SBCC campaigns to promote COVID prevention behaviors and increase trust in the vaccine. CARE teams are learning a lot about what drives change and what does not.

For example, together we have learned that reach and engagement with ads – an important metric in brand marketing – are not necessarily corollary to behavior change.

In some contexts, we have been able to leverage Facebook’s brand lift study tool to measure campaign effectiveness, but in some contexts the population on the platform is too small for the tool to be useful. We are working together as a learning cohort to find new ways to measure efforts in those countries.

In the countries where we were able to run lift studies, we saw encouraging results.

  • In Bangladesh, we saw a 2 point increase in the number of people who know that social distancing is important to slow the spread of COVID-19  – an estimated increase of 7.5 million people.
  • In Nigeria we saw a 1.6 point increase in the number of people who understand the importance of preventive behaviors – an estimated increase of 3 million people.
  • In India we saw a 2.1 point increase in the number of people who report that they always or often wore a mask in the last 2 days – an estimated increase of nearly 57 million people.
  • In the United States, we saw a 10.4 point lift in women ages 34-44 who believed that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and in men ages 25-34 we saw a 7.9 point lift in belief that the vaccines are safe.

What’s Next

Moving forward, CARE Country Offices are building on lessons learned through the initial campaign efforts and drafting subsequent campaign plans. CARE expects to see a second round of COVID-19 prevention and / or campaigns to build trust in the vaccines in market in the 19 countries in the next few weeks. Our hope is to increase the shifts we are seeing in knowledge, attitude, and behavior in each context because none of us are safe until all of us are safe.

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