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cancer

Social Media: The Importance of Being Aware

Social Media Officer, Hayley Devlin, discusses the importance of awareness days/weeks/months.

As a cancer charity, we see awareness days a lot. October, famously, is for Breast Cancer Awareness. In January, we have Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and in June it’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week. In November, it’s a triple whammy: Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Mouth Cancer Action Month and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Here’s an example of a Facebook post we ran for Lung Cancer Awareness Month: 

lung-cancer-awareness-month-fb-post-002

Our Social content calendar features a whole host of ‘awareness’ days and they’re not always cancer related. There’s Deaf Awareness Week in May, Random Act of Kindness day in February and (our personal favourite) World Emoji Day in July.

But why tie in some of these seemingly frivolous days with our content? Shouldn’t we be posting about different cancer types all the time anyway?

Social media is, essentially, just a big conversation. It’s a loud and busy one, and it’s easy for your voice to get lost in the crowd. Awareness days, weeks and months are great because they usually trend, making the conversations visible to people who might have otherwise missed it. As social gets more saturated, reaching new audiences organically (without any spend) is becoming increasingly difficult. The #AwarenessDays are great, because they’re a conversation that lots of people are already having, and present us with the opportunity to add in our two cents, reaching new people along the way.

Of course, cancer awareness days/weeks/months are particularly important to us. They give us an excellent springboard to create content we know will not only be relevant, but that people are also looking for. One of our top performing posts of the year came from Cervical Cancer Prevention Week in January. It had a staggering organic reach of 362,319, was shared 2,048 times and earned 5,115 likes. To put that into context, our top performing post this year was our tribute to Caroline Aherne. It had an organic reach of 549,909 people and earned 6,554 likes. It was also a video, which we know the Facebook algorithm still favours, so the fact that our cervical cancer awareness post did so well is a testament to how important they are. 

Here’s an example of a Cervical Cancer Prevention Week post:

cervical-cancer-post-fb-002

On top of allowing us to showcase our cancer information and support services, the more ‘fun’ days are a chance for us to think more creatively. They give us the opportunity to showcase Macmillan using an angle we may not normally go for. For #WorldEmojiDay, we created a timeline out of emojis to help show how we’ve grown as an organisation since our beginnings. The World Emoji Day tweet had 38,477 impressions, which is more than double our average (average of about 13,000).

Our World Emoji Day Tweet:

world-emoji-day-tweet-002

On #WorldKindnessDay, we used a quote from the Not Alone Campaign and a tip from The Source to encourage people to share their own tips on the platform. We used #WorldHelloDay to introduce some of the experts we have on the Online Community. We’re always on the lookout for new awareness days to consider for our content planning.

Mind you, I don’t see us posting about International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day at any point soon!

To find out more about our awareness days/weeks/months, follow our Facebook and Twitter social media channels.

 

Icons of graphs and devices to represent google analytics

Google Analytics: An interview with our Digital Analyst

Hattie Biddlecombe, Digital Analyst at Macmillan Cancer Support, uses Google Analytics to provide insight into Macmillan’s online presence. I sat down with Hattie earlier this week to discuss how Google Analytics helps her in her role and the impact that it has on Macmillan.

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We’re getting emotional over the new Facebook emotions

SHOCK! HORROR! GLEE! Oh wait, those aren’t part of the six new reactions Facebook has recently rolled out…

If you haven’t already heard, Facebook is now allowing you to express yourself in new ways. All you need to do is hover over the original like button and choose from like, love, haha, wow, sad and anger. So what does our digital team think of the new update? Here are our reactions to the new Facebook reactions:

loveAlice Hajek, Social Media Officer

I like anything new so I am slightly in love with these new options. I am desperately searching my Facebook feed to find something to ‘love’ but am yet to find the perfect post. We have already seen our supporters use the new reactions on our Facebook ads and it is great to see them in action. I’m really interested to see how this will help with our post engagement and if it will have an effect on our reach.

wowMairead Brodie, Digital Marketing Officer

We knew this was in the pipeline but now that this is in place I am wow’d at what this brings to Facebook- they really sneaked this update on us! I’m really looking forward to seeing how this will work on our sponsored Facebook posts and I’m so glad there isn’t a dislike button.

angerGabriella Okon, Digital Editor

The great thing about a thumbs up is that social media users have evolved to understand it as a multi-faceted expression of emotion. Why must I now think twice (nay 6 times!) before I engage with a post? And can someone please explain to me how to differentiate between a cyber like and a cyber love? If I cyber love one friend’s salad pic, and cyber like another friend’s baby pic, what ridiculous trap of misplaced over-expression have I fallen into? I predict that a global preference of the love heart will see the thumbs up fall by the wayside. And what a shame. Okay ‘pokes’ were always creepy, but a thumbs up was just fine. If it aint broke Facebook…

likeBernard Muscat, Senior Social Media Officer

Today’s release is Facebook’s biggest update on features around users’ emotions since the introduction of the Like button in 2009.  The Like button is still among the Reactions available.  It remains to be seen whether users will experiment more with other Reactions, or whether the emojification of the Like button and its longevity will mean that it remains the most popular Reaction.

hahaHamilton Jones, Digital Editor

I think the new update is going to be great fun! By its nature, social media is the platform we use to share what we find hilarious and silly. With a huge rise in videos on our timelines, it’s no surprise Facebook has added these new emojis… how else are we to express our laughter when watching fail videos if not in tiny yellow pixels?

sadAnnabel Howarth, Digital Assistant

These days we have so many hundreds of amazing emojis going round (my personal favourites is the unicorn) and yet Facebook chose these six?! Humans have many complex emotions and this makes me sad,  we can’t be limited like this, our emotions cannot be confined to just six options. Also-is this just going to give cyber bullies and trolls what they have always wanted?I’m worried..

Storytelling: The superhero of communications

In the first of three blogs, Craig Melcher, our Digital Content Manager, opens the book on the most enduring and powerful form of digital content.

alan-rickman

‘Storytelling’ was once an innocent word, belonging to the bedtime ritual between parents and children or legend-sharing rituals within indigenous cultures. Then around five years ago the marketing world got its mitts on it, turned it into an ‘essential engagement tool’, and it became the topic of every agency blog, brand summit and industry podcast.

But rather than do its run as a marketing trend and fodder for buzzword bingo, storytelling is now flourishing through digital channels. Stories have become the online content people gravitate to, share and talk about – and the volume, quality and variety have mushroomed.

Aside from how successfully the most dominant modern story forms – films and books – perform online, the telling of stories has found other, more innovative forms. Major news websites have helped lead the way, using HTML5 and other web innovations to combine text, video, photography, graphics and audio into rich, interactive stories like the Guardian’s Firestorm, SBS’s The Other 9/11 and Baptism by Fire from the New York Times.

For our ears, on the back of last year’s record success of Serial (and, long before that, its progenitor This American Life), documentary and interview-style podcast series like Radiolab, Outlook, SBS True Stories, Love + Radio, Porchlight and StoryCorps have built huge audiences. Live event podcasts like Risk! and The Moth are getting big download numbers by featuring everything from story slams to people sharing personal tales onstage.

For our eyes, the web’s visual strengths make it a photographer’s playground, and professionals and amateurs alike are publishing potent photo essays, not only on Instagram but also platforms like Exposure.

For lovers of written stories, the movement has led to sites such as Longform, Wattpad, Medium and dozens more, as well as waves of online learning and collaboration options like Figment, LitLift, The Story Emporium and truckloads more.

The arc and the oxytocin

What caused all this? It turns out we humans have a thing for stories. They are how we connect to each other, generate empathy for people we don’t know, and are moved to do something for them. We’re hard-wired to tell and listen to stories.

We can explain why this happens through some basic science and basic story structure. At its most stripped-down*, the arc of a story has three stages:
1. Exposition – when a main character is introduced along with details like setting, time, situation and, importantly, what that character wants.
2. Crisis – when something happens to the character that gets in the way of what they want.
3. Resolution – when the enemy is beaten, the disaster averted, the solution found, or the first kiss finally happens.

Classic-Story-Arc-storytelling

* In books and courses by the thousands, the universal dramatic structure has been pursued, dissected, analysed, prescribed and over-complicated. But if you want one good read that truly explains the ‘why’ of humankind’s need for stories, I recommend John Yorke’s Into the Woods.

Now the science bit (your brain on stories). We all have four main ‘happy chemicals’, or hormones that act as neurotransmitters in our brains:
- Dopamine – to motivate us. Released when you realise you have a 5pm deadline on the report you thought was due next week.
- Seratonin – to make us feel valued. Released when someone compliments you on that stylish belt.
- Oxytocin – the all-powerful social bonding chemical. Between mum and baby, it facilitates childbirth and promotes breastfeeding. Between two partners, it triggers feelings from warm and fuzzy to sexual. Between two strangers, it fosters generosity.
- Endorphins – the euphoria chemical. Released via all sorts of triggers: through laughter, as response to pain and stress (the athlete’s high), favourite aromas (hello, bacon), and of course chocolate – amongst many others.

So where does the brain science meet the story arc?

1. Exposition: When we’re introduced to a main character, we connect with them to at least a small degree – and our brain releases oxytocin. The more we connect or identify with them – maybe they remind you of someone close, or their situation is one you’ve experienced, or they’re from your town – the more we go on their journey with them, and the more oxytocin we produce.
2. Crisis: As something bad happens to our character, our oxytocin levels increase. And the more we relate to them, the greater the oxytocin surge.
3. Resolution: The moment our character saves the planet and gets the boy, or just finds health and happiness, our oxytocin levels drop and our brain produces endorphins.

That’s why we’re all story junkies. And it’s why civilisations told stories before they could print. They’re the most effective vehicle of communication we have because of their power to move and connect us. Stories are how we entertain, educate and inspire. The yarns we tell in pubs, office kitchens and taxi cabs prove that storytelling is the original form of social media.

‘You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.’
- Margaret Atwood

And when you combine the enduring power of the story with the nearly unlimited ability of web channels to reach people, build niche audiences and let them spread content, you get the boom in storytelling explained above, times a thousand.

What does this mean for Macmillan?

Consider our organisational ambition: To reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer, and inspire millions of others to do the same. So how do we inspire them? What’s the mechanism that moves them to seek help and information when they’re affected by cancer, or to give us their money, time and other support? Chances are, it will be someone’s story that plays a key role, motivating them to action.

We’re in an enviable position in that we represent the human side of cancer. (As sometimes said, we are the care, not the cure.) The stories of the people we help and the people who help us are the most vivid, compelling and authentic ways we can communicate to our audiences. A principle of our brand is ‘For and by real people’, meaning we allow them to tell their stories and, in doing so, we’re able to express what we do, the need for our services and the impact we can make.

david-for-blog

Across our website, we use stories to give weight to a message and lend personal voices to information. On our story hub you’ll find a wide range of stories covering various challenges people have faced along their cancer journeys. Many of these were produced as part of Macmillan’s ongoing Not Alone brand campaign. We’re always adding more stories and finding more places to use them, working with content-producing teams to plan the most effective story content.

A story for another day

In our next instalment on storytelling, we’ll take a closer look at how Macmillan and other charities are telling personal stories and building broader narratives, and the techniques, content and measurement needed to do it well.

Further reading

The Science of Generosity (Paul Zak), Psychology Today

The Three-Act Structure, The Elements of Cinema

Thumbs up and thumbs down - pros and cons of introducing long copy to social media

Long copy takes to social

Digital Editor Hamilton Jones sheds light on the introduction of long copy on social channels, weighing up the pros and cons for the Macmillan website.

Since the rise of social media, people have been accessing information online in a completely different way. Driven by short character limits and even shorter attention spans, social media’s fast paced nature has traditionally seen it play a very separate role to that of the website. But that could be about to change.

The past weeks have seen announcements from two major social networks that indicate a move towards long copy on their platforms. Twitter is looking at lifting the 140 character limit across their whole platform, having recently done so for their direct messaging service, while Facebook’s in-built publishing tool, Instant Articles, is currently being tested by major brands worldwide.

The move by both parties invites brands to expand their social presence by sharing much longer pieces of content, content that perhaps would usually have appeared exclusively on their website. The impact this is likely to have could result in digital editorial and social media teams working much more closely to create cross-platform content.

At Macmillan, the Information and Support section of our website contains thousands of invaluable long copy pages for both generic and cancer specific information. By using tools like Instant Articles, we may have the opportunity to share some of this information across our social networks, helping us to reach more people affected by cancer than ever before.

While this may sound like a fantastic opportunity, sharing some of our long copy on social media has its downsides too. By creating a hub of all of our content on our social networks, we are taking users away from our website. While having more traffic on our social platform is a good thing, it also means we do not have as much control over how we interact with and reach our audience. By driving users to our own website we have the opportunity to capture better data and provide them with a more personalised experience.

So what does this mean for Macmillan? Well, watch this space! Over the next few months as these changes roll out across Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps more widely across all social channels, it will be interesting to see how we, as a digital team, adapt to and embrace these changes.

Thoughts on this?
Tweet us @mac_digital or leave a comment below!

Tig Notaro – LIVE! (rhymes with give…)

Wow! This weekend I listened to one of the most incredible things. American comic, Tig Notaro, had been booked to play at a comedy club when, just before the gig was due, she was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. Somehow she agreed to perform and delivered one of the most arresting, emotionally honest and funny shows I’ve ever heard. Bringing in the fact that her mother had recently died and she’d split up with her long term girlfriend, the audience reaction goes from nervous laugther, to openly upset, then appreciating the humour she uses in her fight to understand and deal with the situation through to a truly supportive, group protection of her. The show’s available for download here

with a share of the profits going to cancer research or read the Huffington Post article here. Astonishing.

Star Cause


If you ever wondered what our cousins across the pond are doing to spread cancer awareness and raise funds, here’s a little taster of Stand Up To Cancer’s latest product offering.

http://store.standup2cancer.org/index.cfm/pid/568186

Thanks to Lucas Films, they’ve secured the rights to the much-loved Star Wars characters and have added a little bit of geek chic to their branded t-shirts. It seems that Stand Up to Cancer’s fundraising and awareness activities are centred around celebrity endorsement and branded merchandise – not a bad ploy in a society so smitten by celebrity. I like their bold statements, like ‘Blast cancer’ and ‘In the fight’. It’s brave and real and this translates to the merchandise’s strong graphic designs.


The online shop has a lot of quality merchandise that meets the brief of being both fashionably appealing and incredibly well branded. I get the feeling that these are the kinds of t-shirts, jumpers and hoodies that supporters would wear beyond that one fundraising occasion.

The High Cost of Living

Even though most of us know and accept the dangers of smoking, it’s often difficult to take on the tobacco industry without sounding whiny or preachy. Here’s an ad from a French agency that hopes to win support for their cause by pitting ‘us’, the public, against ‘them’, the evil tobacco giants. Anti-tobacco organisations have a notoriously difficult task in France, where smoking isn’t just thought of as ‘cool’, it’s considered part of the culture, an aspect of their national identity.

It’s interesting to me that individuals are less likely to respond to appeals to take care of their health, which we’ve seen a lot of in anti-tobacco advertising recently. This is an unusual angle in that it encourages you to fight back against a faceless evil – the tobacco industrialists. It’s easier to act when you can place the blame externally.

In a country with strong socialist leanings, the tensions between the working class and the obscenely wealthy seem to have been used quite effectively here. Would knowing some corporate fat cat is getting rich off you make you reconsider that cigarette?