Social media effectively connects people across the world who are passionate about issues such as National Recovery Month (Recovery Month). Blog and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide individuals and organizations with an easily accessible, cost-effective way to interact with a diverse and expansive audience. Social media also offers measurable results, giving users an opportunity to analyze trends and adjust messaging as needed. This document offers tips on how to use social media and social networks to spread the Recovery Month message in September and throughout the year. It is helpful for both beginners and more experienced social media users. Beginners can also refer to the “New Media Glossary” document in this toolkit, which defines relevant terms.
Recovery Month is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness,” represents the many ways that people can prevent behavioral health issues, seek treatment, and sustain recovery as part of a commitment to live a mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy life.
To start, set your objectives. This will help determine the level of involvement needed within the social media network. For example, you could aim to increase your number of Twitter followers by 10 percent each month, or to write a new blog post each week. Keep goals in mind when creating a personal profile, account, or page, and remember the option to start small and build the conversation on other platforms later.
To begin social media engagement, start by searching social networking sites for organizations or social media users that have similar objectives. Below are some tips that can foster shared support for a personal Facebook page, Twitter account, or blog.
- Post positive statements on another user’s wall;
- “Like” another Facebook page;
- “Follow” another Twitter account;
- Update a status to promote another page or initiative. By placing an “@” in front of the user’s name on Facebook or Twitter, for example @RecoveryMonth, a status will link directly to the Recovery Month Facebook page or the Recovery Month Twitter account (depending on which platform you are on);
- Recommend that friends visit a Facebook or Twitter page;
- Share or re-tweet a positive message about prevention, treatment, or recovery issues;
- Promote another page’s event if it relates to Recovery Month messaging; and
- Comment on a helpful blog post and share it through a personal blog.
Use Blogs to Reach Out…
Blogs can serve as a forum to create online communities for people with similar interests or who support the same causes, such as recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders. A regularly updated blog can share information and opinions, and encourage people to react and respond through comments. Keep in mind that blogging requires a significant time commitment. Coming up with regular new content and posts are factors that make a blog successful. You can also consider participating in existing conversations on other blogs, rather than starting a personal blog, if posting new entries on a consistent basis might not be feasible.
Before you create a personal blog, or one for an organization, use the resources below to gauge existing blogs and what topics they discuss. By researching other blogs, you can determine the most relevant topics for discussion, as well as how to differentiate your blog from others.
- Google Blog Search: Use this site for real-time search results on existing conversations among bloggers on a specific topic, such as mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, or recovery. To develop a relationship with bloggers, read and comment on blog posts regularly. Pay particular attention to the blogger’s latest posts so that a comment or response will be relevant.
- Technorati: Use this site to identify a blog’s authority and influence. Technorati scores and rates blogs by calculating their influence. Start here to find the topics and bloggers who drive the conversation.
Tips for starting an official Facebook page for your organization:
- Sign up and fill out your organization’s information, including contact information.
- Upload your organization’s logo as the profile image.
- Create a cover image for your page to showcase the mission of your organization.
- Edit privacy settings.
- Use the search bar to find friends or organizations on Facebook, and “like” them.
- Update your status and post updates frequently to help grow your page.
If you decide to start a personal blog, many websites, such as Wordpress, Tumblr, or Blogger, offer guidance. Once you begin to post, use sites such as Facebook or Twitter to cross-promote.
You can also practice blogger engagement to participate in existing conversations about your issue. Consider the following tips to help connect with others on message boards and blogs:
- Be transparent. Comment under your own name and share your background as it relates to the information posted.
- Comment on other people’s blog posts. Let others know about the resources available to help them combat a mental and/or substance use disorder. Also, direct people to http://www.recoverymonth.gov.
- Offer resources and support. Prevention, treatment, and recovery services are sometimes offered online, and anonymous users may post messages about their own recovery journey. Respond with words of encouragement or helpful information and resources such as Recovery Month’s inspirational quotes widget or e-Cards.
Engage on Facebook…
Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has developed into a worldwide social networking website with more than 950 million active members.1 The site offers two ways to join: through a personal account or an official page account.
- To start a personal account, you will need to provide your name and email address. A personal Facebook page may feature contact information (if provided), interests, photos, and videos. You can determine the privacy settings to control what friends or other Facebook users can see.
- An official page is used to promote organizations, companies, or causes. These pages are entirely public, so non-Facebook users can view them as well.
Once an account is started:
- Find other Facebook members by using the search function, and “friend” or “like” any pages of interest.
- Share any resources or link to reputable sites that are helpful to those visiting your page, such as prevention, treatment, or recovery services in your local community.
- Create an “event” and send invites to friends to publicize a Recovery Month event.
- The invitation should include the location, the date and time, a brief description of the event, and any interesting or related links.
- Encourage participants to RSVP to the event through the “going,” “maybe,” or “not going” buttons.
- Consider creating an online event, such as a rally or a forum, and invite Facebook friends who are interested in Recovery Month to join and chat with others who actively promote prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Engage on Twitter…
Another popular social networking site is Twitter. This networking service allows “tweets,” or text-based posts up to 140 characters long, to be displayed on a user’s profile page. These tweets are publicly accessible unless you change the privacy settings. “Following” another Twitter account shows interest in what they tweet, and lays the groundwork for building a relationship. The site is easy to use and allows users to choose a Twitter username, write a short biography, and choose an account icon image. Below are some features of Twitter to help promote Recovery Month.
- Use the search function and look up keywords related to Recovery Month or mental and/or substance use disorders to find conversations on the topic, or users who have related interests or messages. You can follow Twitter users who have similar interests, retweet, and reply to their tweets when appropriate. This is a great way to gain followers and increase engagement.
- Retweet an interesting tweet to share the information with others. To do this, hit “Retweet” or add a “RT” in front of the text so other Twitter users realize that it is a retweet, and feel free to add commentary if you support the message. For example, “YourUserName: I’ll take the pledge today! RT @RecoveryMonth: 2 for Me, 2 for You. Take our Pledge 4 Recovery Challenge and show your support for recovery!”
- Show support to Twitter users who post on a personal feed by replying to their post. This can be done by using an “@” symbol directly before a Twitter user’s name. Also consider replying to a tweet by clicking “Reply,” at the bottom of the tweet. By replying this way, you enable others to open the details of both the original tweet and any subsequent replies.
- Create or use a hashtag – “#” with a key phrase – to allow users to easily search and find a personal tweet using this key phrase. For example, using #RecoveryMonth will place a tweet into the discussion about Recovery Month.
- Send direct messages, or private tweets, to another Twitter user to communicate privately.
- Host a Twitter chat about a specific topic using a unique hashtag so that followers can participate in the conversation. Twitter chats are a great way to connect and interact with followers, increase the number of followers to a user’s page, and promote Recovery Month messages. For instance, Recovery Month has hosted Twitter chats on topics including prevention and early intervention, recovery support services, and behavioral health care within the military community.
Twitter is an effective way to quickly inform followers or other users about general updates, events, or anything of interest to the behavioral health community. By bringing members together, online communities can serve as a support system. Be sure to start following @RecoveryMonth for information about upcoming events, personal stories of recovery, resources, and general conversation about the benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Be sure to check out the Recovery Month YouTube page to watch public service announcements and other videos relating to prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Join Other Social Media Outlets…
In addition to Facebook and Twitter, other social media applications can be used to successfully spread ideas and communicate the Recovery Month message through video, photo, and location-based communication. Below is a sample of these applications and how you can best use these tools.
- Use YouTube to upload any videos that relate to positive messages surrounding Recovery Month, mental and/or substance use disorders, and the benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery. To find others that share similar interests, subscribe to different channels and comment on enjoyable videos. When uploading videos, choose the right category and use detailed descriptions and tags so other users can easily find uploaded content. Also, remember to edit the properties for a video to allow all comments, require approval for each comment, or block all comments if needed.
- Use Flickr to display images and videos of Recovery Month events. Tag and title them with specific keywords, such as an organization or event name, so they can be found easily by search engines. Join a Flickr group that has similar interests and comment on their discussion boards or photos. If one does not exist, create your own group and encourage others to contribute.
- Use Foursquare to “check in” and leave tips at Recovery Month event locations using applications on smartphones (e.g., iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm) or mobile Internet. This updates other Recovery Month supporters about the specific location of an event, any networking opportunities in your community, or an experience you recommend for others.
- Use Google+ to organize connections in “Circles” to share specific information with certain groups of people or to host a virtual room live-stream or “Hangout” with up to 10 people at a time.
- Use Pinterest, a virtual pinboard that allows users to share images found on the Internet to spread the message of recovery and treatment in a more visual manner. Connect with other users by posting and “repinning” images such as inspirational photos, motivational quotes, and relevant infographics. Organize photos by creating different pinboards and encourage other users to add to personal boards.
- Use Instagram to quickly and easily share photos taken on a smartphone. Instagram is a mobile application that allows iPhone and Android users to easily filter and upload the photos they take and share them with friends and followers on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Upload a photo from a Recovery Month event to Instagram in real time.
Additional Steps for Success…
There are many different ways to promote Recovery Month and local organizations through social media. Always remember when working with social media that nothing is ever deleted. Also, to keep friends or networks continually interested, be positive and keep posts or statuses timely, optimistic, and thought-provoking. If a friend on Facebook or a follower on Twitter is offensive, you can “defriend,” stop following the person, or even block him or her from viewing your profile. If someone’s actions are inappropriate or threatening, contact the respective social media network’s administrator and file a report. Keep in mind the goal of spreading positive messages and promoting awareness of mental and substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Continue to visit the Recovery Month website to see what resources are available to help connect the recovery community online. Recovery Month shares a monthly digital media e-newsletter that shares case studies and tips of new trends and developments.
Inclusion of websites and other resources mentioned in this document and on the Recovery Month website does not constitute official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.