Helping Low-Income Moms Build Healthy Eating Habits with Social Media

With more than 2.8 billion global social media users, these platforms have evolved far beyond simply being places for individuals to share images of their children, pets, and weddings. Facebook, in particular, has become a powerful tool for marketers. And with the explosion of social media, most businesses and organizations are using these platforms to engage and build emotional connections with their customers and prospects.

Social media platforms have been an especially effective educational tool for the various state SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) organizations we work with. That’s because many families receiving SNAP benefits do not have a permanent address, and don’t have access to cable or conventional television, making it particularly challenging to reach this specific population segment. A 2016 study in Georgia discovered that 63-percent of SNAP-Ed eligible Georgians use social media on a daily basis, with 76.5-percent of those active on Facebook. Of the group surveyed, over 94-percent were female and accessed social media through their smart phones. Beyond Georgia, we know that social media use adoption was slower among low income communities, but that gap has been steadily decreasing over the last ten years. According to more recent statistics of social media demographics, we know that:

  • 63% of households making $30,000 or less a year are using at least one social network
  • New parents use Facebook mobile 1.3 X more often than users without children.
  • Facebook is the preferred social platform of supermarket shoppers—89% use it.

Based on this information, we knew that social media would be a key platform for reaching low income moms through our behavior change campaigns. Research shows that low-income families, even with their severely limited budgets, want to eat healthier foods, but many don’t have the necessary resources at hand to make the change. Creating content that these low-income moms wanted, including easy-to-make, healthy recipes, food storage tips, and removing barriers to physical activity was the direction we needed to take.

We also knew it was important to have a media budget to promote the content to ensure it reached our target audience. At that point, we could engage with these families through one-on-one conversations and educate and support them in their desire to build healthier eating habits and lives.

Before you invest in a social media strategy for your SNAP-related organization, consider these seven tips.

  1. Understand your audience. Researching your audience is incredibly important so that you truly know and understand who you’re talking to. Research told us that our audience was primarily comprised of low-income moms. Understanding their education level, location, values and other demographic and psychographic information strengthened our ability to communicate a healthy eating message to them. During the research phase, use formal surveys, focus groups, or Q&A on social media itself. Once you have a clear sense of your audience, asking questions and engaging with them should be an ongoing part of your social media strategy – so that you’re on top of what’s happening to and with these low-income moms.
  2. Identify the right social media platforms. There is only so much time and money in any budget, so selecting the right social media platforms to focus on is important. We found that our target audience of low-income moms were most commonly using Facebook. Interestingly, Facebook has often been overlooked by those in behavior change marketing, but it can be a very powerful tool. Once you have your target audience well defined, simple research about each platform can help you decide which social media networks will have the most impact. Another important thing to note is that 91% of social media users are accessing social via mobile devices, so all social media campaigns should be mobile-optimized.
  3. Make a Content Plan. Not to be confused with the marketing plan, this planning is specific to social media. Create a content calendar for the year that outlines what type of content you plan to post and when. Since we’re looking to help low-income moms make healthier eating choices, we think about things like seasonality of produce, healthy holiday swaps, relevant monthly observations and other issues that are relevant to moms. Start by identifying how frequently you will be posting on social media (avoid that one size fits all junk) and how you will be communicating your messaging on those platforms.
  4. Create a content budget. Having quality content that can be used on social media is crucial! However, creating content is not free, so before you post something just for the sake of posting, PLAN and BUDGET! Consider all the options and what will work best for your audience! Also think about any assets – recipes, infographics, how-to videos, etc. – that you have already that could be repurposed as social media content. Remember that video is the #1 type of content consumed on Facebook, especially on mobile. Facebook LIVE is also a top performer organically, in an age when organic reach is all but dead. Just like you these moms are busy and may not have the time to read an in-depth blog article and would prefer an infographic or video to explain it to them.
  5. Have a media budget. Unfortunately, social media has become a pay-to-play platform just like the rest of the marketing world. Fortunately, social media remains one of the most cost-effective and targeted ways to advertise. You can build target lists based on what you know about your audience and segment people based on age, location, job, education level, and other attributes. Facebook offers the most in-depth targeting options out there. Promoting your social media posts will ensure that your messages are delivered and seen by the right people.
  6. Be responsive. Don’t just post and move on. Always respond when a question is asked or a comment is made! For SNAP-Ed, we wanted to become a trusted ally for low-income families trying to eat healthier. We make sure to always be available, responsive, and empathetic – within reason. It’s impossible to be available 24/7, so be sure to set expectations for response time. This can include auto-responders and parameters set in the “About” tab. While it may be hard to reply to everyone, do your best. Also, DON’T ignore (or hide) those negative comments! These provide opportunities to improve communications and build relationships while you gain valuable insights into how these low-income moms think and what they need.
  7. Review your performance. As our audience learns to make healthier eating choices, we need to continue our learning, too. It’s important to take time each month or quarter to review what posts and content caught the attention of your audience, and what fell flat. Identify surprises, learning moments, and even additional problems you can help solve. At Ethos, we review monthly to ensure that the content is working. If not, we tweak our content strategy accordingly. One of the most noteworthy things we’ve learned from our monthly reviews is that our target moms would love to be able to sign up online for FREE programs in their community, and they like to receive easy, healthy tips in their email inbox. These findings helped us to refine our overall entire marketing plan, not just social media!

Want to learn more about best practices in Behavior Change Marketing? 

About Ethos

Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside of Maine.

At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.

With Ethos, you get more than a behavior change marketing agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.

Learn more about the Ethos approach and the work we’ve done for our clients. Want to have a conversation about your brand’s core truth? Contact us!

Written By

The ETHOS Team