How Social Media Analytics Can Transform Health and Wellness

by Bhavin Prajapati

Wait a second… health? Did Crowdbabble switch industries? No, we haven’t but we still want to talk about it.

Health and wellness is an integral part of our society and to our personal identity. Despite its importance, it often lags behind the other trends we see in the consumer and business space. It is said that innovations that transform industries like tech usually arrive 5 to 10 years later in the healthcare sector. It eventually happens but I don’t like settling for eventually. Health is time sensitive because people’s lives depend on it.

Health is long overdue for serious, game changing disruption. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and countless of others are are willing to take serious risks to revolutionize the sector. Crowdbabble sees itself as one of the major players albeit surreptitiously.

Where can Crowdbabble fit into the health and wellness realm? Our whole grain bread and healthy butter of course, social media analytics. Even though our platform is tailored towards marketers, it doesn’t preclude other fields!

Health promotion is Marketing

Let’s take a look at the definition of health promotion as defined by the World Health Organization:

Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.

Now let’s quickly look at the definition of marketing, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Marketing is about communicating the value of a product, service or brand to customers or consumers for the purpose of promoting or selling that product, service, or brand.

The process to empower people with their health is at it’s core marketing. A well marketed health initiative can be implemented much like a well targeted ad to sell a product. For health, the product is a higher quality of life through positive health and health promoters task is to communicate this value to the population. Health promotion may not be a ideal setting for mad men but it shares the same core values and approaches.

The major difference is that health promoters require a thorough understanding of epidemiology (study of population health. Even then, this doesn’t deviate from how one may expect a marketer to understand target demographics (study of population).

Health promoters are marketers of health. They are often apart of nonprofit organizations and public bodies like the Ministry of Health or the World Health Organization. We envision health promoters analyzing an entire health campaigns across their social media platforms. They might be able to determine that some social channels to be better for different demographics looking for health information.

There are a lot of possibilities! What this means is that any social media analytics platform like Crowdbabble could make it’s way as one of the many tools health promoters use.

Digital Health is Social

A common misconception is mixing up health and medicine. The two are entirely different terms and medicine fits under the general health umbrella. Medicine is a critical component of health, but it’s only one limb of the health tree.

Health revolves around the concepts of “social determinants of health”. These determinants are “income and social status; social support networks; education; employment/working conditions; social environments; physical environments; personal health practices and coping skills; healthy child development; gender; and culture.” This is nearly every aspect of our existence. With our lives blurring the divide between the digital and physical realms, this extends to our health and wellbeing. Health; online and physical, are now becoming one unified, experience.

Tech companies are keen on this.

Facebook is rumoured to start several public health initiatives, one such is where they are analyzing the social data to determine some of associated factors involved in obesity. Social media is new arena for epidemiology 2.0 and it may yield more information about disease patterns that were not clearly understood before simply because there was no means to evaluate social situations and behaviours to the extent we can now.

Health researchers can use platforms like Crowdbabble to help understand the subtleties of health. We are only at the cusp of allowing researchers to learn more about user engagement with health content and how it empowers them. Social media analytics can shed a new light on the social determinants of health as more of us rely on the Internet for everyday aspects of education, finances, work and even hobbies… all of which affect our health and wellbeing!

The Advent of Big Data

Big data this. Big data that. It’s basically a buzzword now. Recently there is a LinkedIn post going around that describes big data as teenage sex… everyone wants to talk about it but no one knows how to do it and everyone thinks others are doing it so then everyone claims to be doing it. It’s a funny analogy that speaks volumes of truth. That doesn’t mean we are not using big data.

To us, social media analytics is one of the primary disruptors of health, but no single company or person can coordinate it. We’ve amassed more data in in a span of 5 years than all of human history, in fact 90% of all human data ever recorded was generated in the last 2 years… that statistic was in 2013. Can you imagine what it is now? This means there is more data and more potential data to analyze!

What’s more, one of the best examples of big data applications has been in healthcare! Let’s take the case of Professor Larry Smarr.

Smarr is the most quantified man on the planet to date. He is the what the average person might be able to do routinely in the next 5–10 years. With all his baselines measured including sequencing his DNA, he monitors everything from sleep with a Fitbit, diet and even taking stool samples which he laters sends to labs. Smarr is trying to demonstrate that every aspect of our lives has a quantifiable component that can be translated into health outcomes. Perfect timing?

Smarr’s keen and near obsessive data collecting allowed him to find an anomaly. He discovered he has the every so tiny markers for Crohn’s Disease, and discovered that he had Crohn’s disease. He found one protein that spiked, a hallmark characteristic of the disease before any symptom shows up. He intervened and can manage the condition before it even happens. Preventive medicine of the future.

Smarr is arguably the leading posterboy for the quantified self movement and he is not even well known! What I wanted to outline was that it took a vast amount of data and number crunching to find this issue. Would this work for mental health?

Yes but only a bit. Social media analytics has a major role to play for mental health research. We don’t really understand mental health but we know of some social factors that influence mental health outcomes. I think Crowdbabble’s best contribution to health would be helping researchers with mental health research through big data. We can be one of the pieces that helps tease apart social media and how it influences mental health.

Okay but…

We are still a social media analytics company and our primary focus is to help marketers to understand and improve their online presence. This doesn’t mean we can’t expand our tools to other areas like health. Crowdbabble has a role to play in the upcoming, data-driven health revolution to improve people’s lives for the better and we are excited to see what we can contribute…

Happy analyzing!

PS — Yes… big data may also be able to help us determine why avocados and mangoes are so deliciously, nutritious together.

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