Leveraging Social Networks to Improve Well-Being

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, May 4, 2012

chris resized 600This is the second post in our social blog series. Throughout the month of May, we'll be featuring posts from some of Boston's most expert thought leaders, answering these questions: “How is the new technology landscape changing social marketing?  What do marketers need to understand now and in the future in order to be prepared for these changes?” This post is by Chris Cartter, General Manager of MeYou Health, the social well-being company based in Boston. Chris has worked in the areas of networking technologies, health and social change for more than 25 years."

The influence of social networks is always top of mind for us at MeYou Health as we continue to develop Daily Challenge, our social well-being product that has over 200,000 users and is fast approaching 5 million challenge completions.

As a company, we know we can best improve health and well-being when backed by cutting-edge research that allows us to fully understand how social networks and connections influence behavior change in regards to adopting a more healthy lifestyle.  

meyouhealth blog image resized 600To understand the power of social networks, we didn’t have to look far. A few short miles away in Newton, MA., Activate Networks (formerly MedNetworks) has shared some of its social connection research with us. We aim to leverage this information, along with research from Harvard Professor Nicholas Christakis and UCSD Professor James Fowler, co-authors of Connected, a book that closely examines the power and influence social networks have on us. Among the team’s key assertions—

  • Behaviors (good and bad) spread across social networks like viruses.
  • The power of influence extends out to three degrees, which means we are influenced by our friends’ friends’ friends.
  • The amount of connections we have impacts our quality of life.
  • We are influenced by what others in our social networks do, as their actions give us permission to engage in that activity as well.
  • The Internet has allowed for the development of new types of connections that were not previously possible.

With the recent surge in new applications designed for the health industry, it’s a great time to explore how we can leverage social connection research in practical ways to make our applications more engaging and social. There is the potential as well to use social platforms like Facebook to not only drive adoption of well-being applications but also increase their effectiveness by helping individuals knit together genuine support networks of people they know.

With a focus to improve well-being by tapping into social network science, Daily Challenge—a recent recipient of a MITX Interactive Award—helps users harness the full positive potential of their social network [video] to incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily lives. Here are some of the social insights from our community of members—

  • More than one-third of all Daily Challenge users have resulted from social invites.
  • Our intelligent invitation algorithms allow us to suggest which of your Facebook friends are most likely to join Daily Challenge.
  • Socially active users with at least one connection average twice as many challenge completions as those who don’t have any personal connections.
  • Socially active users visit the site twice as often as users without any connections.
  • A community built on strong social ties leads to greater engagement and participation; in fact, 75% of users engage in Daily Challenge for 30 days or longer.

Since launching Daily Challenge in 2010, we’ve learned much about driving engagement in a social well-being product through social media and gaming mechanics [video]. As we hoped, users have embraced the idea that daily small actions can have an impact on their well-being. They also see progress and celebrate daily wins through game mechanics that provide a sense of momentum in the product. But it’s the social connections that people form in the product that have the biggest impact on sustained engagement -- a prerequisite for generating any meaningful effect or measurable ROI.

As we look toward future growth and commercialization of Daily Challenge, we are turning our attention to measuring effect. Just this week we began enrollment into a large scale randomized controlled clinical trial of Daily Challenge. Does the engagement and social interaction we optimized the product to produce translate into measurable well-being improvement? We aim to find out!

Want to know more? Email your questions to social [at] meyouhealth [dot] com. We’ll be at the the Activate Networks Summit on May 8th to further discuss how we have leveraged social network science to change health behavior and improve well-being.

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