Last year about this time I was formulating an idea for a nutrition awareness program. I had connected with a clinic that was both expanding its physical footprint and its community reach and I would be collaborating with two other clinic programs to serve young women. The research regarding nutrition for women of childbearing age was very compelling. I was excited about some of the methods I’d read about. But what did I know about these women themselves, right here, in my community, in 2011? What did they want to know about? What methods of conveying this information would work best? How could I find and begin to communicate with them?
I turned to the coordinator of one of the other better established collaborating programs for guidance. She gave me names and phone numbers and I did a small phone survey. She introduced me to a few of her program members at a social gathering. This is where the listening began. It was primitive and woefully short in reach, but it was a start. Because there was a time constraint I moved ahead with plans for the program.
“It was primitive and woefully short in reach, but it was a start.”
While I continued to attend occasional social gatherings of this group I was still a guest and so was careful not to intrude. I needed to move slowly to gain their trust. At the same time I needed to gain a better understanding of their needs and do it quickly to gain insight regarding how to make the program appealing to them. I needed to “hang out” (did they still say that?) where they were.
Enter social media. My colleague invited me to become a member of the Facebook group for this community which I soon discovered was much larger than the core group who attended the social gatherings. For the first few months I did a lot of listening to the chatter of this group, occasionally “liked” a comment and once or twice a month posted an invitation to participate in my program. At the same time I began to monitor the clinic’s Facebook page. A few months later I started a page for my own program and connected with other non-profit and business pages. I invited them to check out postings and events on my page and “Liked” or provided links to other businesses, services and blogs I thought might interest them. I posted a survey to get feedback on time and topics for the next round of program events. Finally, I began to receive friend requests from members of this group. Emboldened by this I sent friend requests to others of the group. I’ve even been able to friend a few women outside of the sister program’s community. So now I’m listening more closely and to widening circles.
Facebook seems to be where everyone is in my geographical area although lately I’ve been seeing postings from Pinterest. I’ll be investigating this and other sources for tapping into the interests of the members of this particular community and their peers.
Recently I’ve been scouring the web for any mention of me or my program using Google Alerts. Nothing. Hmmm….maybe it’s time to move into more participation.
Susan Gigot-Klein is working toward a Master of Nutritional Science degree at UW-Stevens Point and is the creator and coordinator of Woman Food, a nutrition awareness program offered by the Wellness Center of Door County.