By Karina Smith
I am currently serving on the board of directors for the Vasculitis Foundation Canada (VFC) and I also oversee their social media platforms (including website). Until I took over the web based tools, the foundation only had an outdated unappealing website. Now, we have a more modern website, a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page and group where people can chat and exchange more freely than the official page.
The target audience for the VFC can be separated in three categories: patients, families or support systems, and the medical community. The predominant category is the patients. The complicated thing with analyzing the demographics of patients is its incredible variety: Vasculitis diseases can affect anyone. There is no gender specific or age category. Male or female can get vasculitis regardless of their ethic or religious background, marital status or age. Researchers are currently trying to identify the origins of vasculitis and so far, all points towards a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The lifestyles of vascultis patients are completely different and can range from not being able to work to being fully functional.
When we are communicating with our audiences, we try to reach our members (usually patients) and their support network. Our audiences are generally more conservative and that is a bit why we are trying to rejuvenate the way we do things so the younger generation feels involved. Even if our main audience is patient-based, we cannot forget the support networks of families, friends, and loved-ones who compose our second largest audience. Within those two types of audiences, none are composed of specific ‘leaders’ but some are more ‘tech savvy’ than others. Our social media interactions are targeted at the Canadian population, but we do have a few international followers as well, mostly patients and families.
Whenever I post for the foundation, I try to be clear, simple, and to the point. I do not make it overly ‘fancy’, but I use proper English or French. Our posts are not medically complicated because our audience is mainly patients who, while afflicted, will not have a medical background.
I am not overly too familiar with other successful online campaigns related to my audience. Currently, the ALS Ice Challenge is trending when it comes to raising awareness and funds on a disease. There is a lot of online talks on the pros and cons of such campaign and its true benefits (CBC – The Current, August 20). Not sure if an ice bucket over your head reaches all type of audiences, but it seems to work better when you are a public figure (any type of public figure really).