Youth Policy & Young People

Guest Post - Kishan Kariippanon: The Art of Engaging Indigenous Youth Via Social Media

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As long as we still have a socio-economic divide, we will continue to have the digital divide amongst young people. What matters the most is that we don’t create a divide called the ‘innovation divide’ because innovation exists everywhere and those disadvantaged are innovating constantly to survive. Read more from Kishan Kariippanon, MD, MPH at Youthhealth2.0 on the art of engaging indigenous youth via social media.

Mediaconsumption today has become personalized, through emergent technology, especially mobile technology and social media (which enables peer-to-peer sharing).Indigenous youth have more controlover what their choices are in terms of what they want to view online. More and more access to media is neither ‘only offline’ or ‘only online’ as the shifttoa seamlessmedia consumption consumerbecomes more widespread.

Media and Social Media

Until the dawn of emergent technology, media has always beenwithin the grasp of a finite group of people and their companies. Today, media has become social where ‘You” are the central actor or directorand your media content can be shared with anyone, anywhere, with access to the Internet.

The novelty in mediaconsumption (my first TV vs my first iPhone) is no longerabout the tools but more onthe content. Engaging, relevant,simple and targeted content is whatmakes a successful social mediaeffort.Every minute, 24 hoursor more of video material is being uploaded to YouTube. How then does health related videos compete withpopular video for viewership if it is not tailor-madeto reflect local content, local actors and especially local efforts and ideas. Engagement, for the purpose of behavior change, targeting Indigenous youth today is far from simply raising awareness on television or radio and definitely not on social media either.

The 3 elements of ‘Engagement’

Engagement in the days before social mediameant it involved a more hands off process. Health promotion project officers would take their project plan to a dedicated team in the local/nationalradio and television company and based on the available budget, a series of advertisements will be produced andaired. The media companies having done extensive research on what time slots are worth in dollars and cents, andwill advise your air time. This was best practice in the days of’one way’health communications via traditional media.

Media and marketing companies are wired to sell, they are focused on converting information dissemination (advertising)to sales (behavior change). Social marketing campaigns that aregeared for behavior change seldom go beyond raising awareness and (advertising) assuming that knowledge is the key to behavior change. It is quite different to sell a brand (E.g. Coke, Dunhill)as opposed to promoting a new behavior or stopping an unhealthy one. The comparison between commercial marketing andsocial marketingis unfortunately not within the scope of this article.

Toengage today’s Indigenous youth, your product or programmust:

  1. Be relevant to your target audience; themore precisely definedtarget audience, the more relevantwill beyour marketing strategy
  2. Co produce media and social marketing content with motivated representatives of target audience
  3. Make the ability to “share” social marketing content easy to do; e.g. via Bluetooth, share via social media, word of mouth

Target audience

We must stop referring to Indigenous youth as a homogenous group of young people. Firstly, there are hundreds of Indigenous languages, clans, moieties, totems, songs, dances and ceremonies that make up the identity of a particular Indigenous youth. When mainstream health promotion efforts contribute to the homogenization of Indigenous youth, we are indirectly, killing the diversity and richness of knowledge and culture of Indigenous communities.

In order to engage Indigenous youth from a remote community,(post community consultations) the project must group their youth within their natural clusters; taking into consideration kin, land, traditional beliefs and clan affiliations. The project must be capable of focusing on the process of negotiation, so paramount to Indigenous community life where everyone has a role to play; even the land and the tree that we will sit under and the language that will be spoken,to plan the social marketing and social media campaign.

Indigenous youth from more urban settings would apply to the same process of working with them to produce locally driven content. When content isauthenticand empowering then, even when it crosses borders and cultures, it will rarely loseits luster and effect as media and social media has a trans-cultural effect in knowledge and information dissemination.

Arewe creating aDigital Divide?

The focus of this article is to discuss the importance of relevant, co produced and sharablemedia made by local youth for their peers. The tools that are used to achieve this have been different based on the available technology at the time. Today, with smartphones, high-speed internet (3G and 4G)and social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, the ability to create targeted media is within the grasp of any motivated and capable health promotion officer and NGO.

The digital divide cannot undermine or disadvantage youth, even Indigenous youth from remote communities. If the main cause of this so-called’digital divide’ is due to socio-economic disadvantage then, employment and skills training needs must be met first. If young people expressly refuse to use the Internet and social media, and their ability to access information viaInternet is halted, then the process of developing media content for themwill take on another form with different dissemination tools.The strategies or principlesremain the same.

Creating access to services and health information does not have to end in a “divide”. Innovation in health communications practiceis yet to take on the attributes and attitudes of a silicon valley startup. As Lucien Engelenfrom the ‘Radboud REshape and Innovation Centre’ (Nijmegen University Medical Centre) says: “If you’re afraid of failure and only want 100% positive results, don’t innovate.”

As long as we still have a socio-economic divide, we will continue to have the digital divide amongst young people. What matters the most is that we don’t create a divide called the ‘innovation divide’ because innovation exists everywhere and those disadvantaged are innovating constantly to survive.