Whether it’s two loving Nova Scotians looking to ‘take it to the next level’ by getting tested for COVID-19 or on ‘the worst Christmas, experts said, limit our social circles and stay six feet’ , examples abound. “In a tough situation, it’s a way to break the ice with people,” said David Denny, general manager of marketing for Communications Nova Scotia.
He said the province’s social media channels have grown exponentially since the start of the pandemic and are seeing engagement on his posts.
For example, the province’s Facebook follower count has tripled to nearly 110,000 since the start of the pandemic, while its Instagram followers have nearly increased tenfold to more than 36,000.
Denny attributes this in part to videos that private companies have produced for the province to share on its social media channels.
In addition to these videos, the province paid for the posts promoted, mainly on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These messages included everything from geo-targeted promotion of a regional contextual test site to targeting a message to a specific demographic.
But it’s unclear how much this marketing effort has cost taxpayers.
A CBC News access to information request for invoices relating to the province’s COVID-19 social media marketing strategy revealed that 61 of 196 invoices covering the period March 1, 2020 to July 15, 2021, n had no total amount included. The incomplete invoices came from Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Invoices from marketing and video production companies the province worked with included full amounts. Part of that effort was working with paid influencers.
The use of influencers
“Sometimes people just don’t want to hear from the government and the message is going to resonate more from a peer or someone they think is a peer, whom they admire… they also have a bigger [following] than we do, so it gets more attention to the message and sometimes it can be delivered in a way that only that segment of the population can get it through, ”Denny said.
One of those influencers is Alicia McCarvell of Halifax, a body positivity advocate who has 3.3 million followers on TikTok and 386,000 on Instagram.
The province paid Toronto marketing agency Shine Influencers $ 11,025 for McCarvell’s services for this video, as well as $ 15,687.50 to Canadian Content Studios to produce the video, which encourages people to do so. test for COVID-19.
Another influencer, Andy Hay of Andy’s East Coast Kitchen, produced a video on how to cook a Christmas dinner for under $ 50.
The province provided Toronto-based Diner Agency Inc. $ 3,955 for the influencer partnership and video creation.
Nova Scotia has also used unpaid collaborations with local athletes and members of Black Nova Scotia and Indigenous communities to spread the word about immunization.
Dalhousie University marketing professor Mohammed El Hazzouri, who studies how people respond to public health messages, said the province’s social media strategy is in the right tone.
“When you use humor, when you’re funny in your ad, I think people are more receptive to that ad,” he said. “People don’t think about the details of the ad or come up with arguments contrary to what you’re saying, so the message becomes more accepted. “
Denny said that was part of the goal.
“It’s kind of our end goal because it was information that was important and information that was ultimately about keeping Nova Scotians safe,” he said. “And whatever we could do to make that more shareable, we looked at. “
“It’s a strange time”
At the end of some videos, a narrator thanks Nova Scotians for following public health restrictions.
“We know this is a strange time and we know you got it, so please stay home, follow the health tips and look out for each other,” the narrator said.
El Hazzouri liked it.
“I think it’s very important, this recognition of ‘We are working together on this’,” he said. “It’s not a very common approach. I haven’t seen it widely in Canada, so this one stood out for me, thanking Nova Scotians for following the rules. “
As the pandemic has shifted from staying at home during the first lockdown to gradual re-openings and vaccinations – with a few other sprinkled lockdowns – Denny said the province is working to get more people vaccinated.
As of Friday, 75.9% of Nova Scotians were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“There are groups of people who are harder to reach or who may be more hesitant,” Denny said. “We have taken steps to reach them and through targeted marketing efforts. “
But while the province’s social media posts have always offered people a carrot, recent policies such as proof of vaccination to participate in non-essential activities and mandatory vaccinations for provincial officials are more of a stick. .
“With these new policies in place… hopefully, it encourages people to get vaccinated,” Denny said.
Check out Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 social media bills covering the period March 1, 2020 to July 15, 2021.