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Social Media Is the “Superhighway of Drugs.” Can Rehab Programs Drive That Road in the Opposite Direction?
Combating fatal misinformation, social media drug deals - and promoting your rehab program
In Poison Pill, a recent Washington Post article, the reporter examined the prevalence of drug sales on social media in light of the record-breaking number of drug overdose deaths in 2021. The article reads: “Snapchat and other social media sites have become “the superhighway of drugs,” said Milgram, the DEA head. “We see this all the time – people will be in a chat about something they care about, a concert or something, and dealers will come in and try to connect with these people.”
The article examines what social media platforms can do to crack down on the drug deals on their platforms, including better self-policing, correcting dangerous misinformation and cooperating with law enforcement investigations.
While those considerations are vital to stopping the overdose epidemic, a question that might be equally of interest to rehab programs is: Can the same tool that is a hotbed of illegal – and sometimes lethal – transactions be used to promote addiction recovery and drug education?
Public Information Campaigns: Positioning Yourself as an Authority (and Promoting Your Rehab Program)
Obviously, social media platforms have long been a mainstay of advertising and promotion for many rehab programs. Some rehab programs may already be very successful at earning clients through traditional advertising on social media or social media campaigns.
Public information campaigns are most often associated with government and nonprofit organizations. For example, the well-known anti-smoking campaigns or other campaigns to raise awareness about public health issues such as cancer screenings or healthy eating, as well as campaigns to raise awareness about social issues such as human trafficking.
But public information campaigns can be a powerful tool in your public relations arsenal. They serve to position your company as a subject matter authority and give you visibility without the impression of self-promotion. An added benefit, of course, is that public information campaigns can make a difference in combatting a major problem. They can correct misinformation, connect the public with useful resources and, sometimes, convince people to take positive action.
Your rehab program can create its own public information campaign or choose to partner with existing public information campaigns such as the DEA’s “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. Consider a joint effort with affinity organizations in your community that have a shared goal of solving the drug crisis, such as the local public health department or local sheriff’s office. In some cases, such campaigns are already underway, saving you the effort of starting from scratch. Volunteer organizations can also be a treasure trove of passion, labor and community visibility.
Maximize Your Influence
Historically, social media sites have functioned differently than traditional media because credibility is built in a grass-roots way. Instead of expensive advertisements or visibility through famous spokespeople, social media has helped companies be successful through the old fashioned “word-of-mouth” and “personal referral” way of promoting a company – amplified by modern communication technology.
You can capitalize on this in two ways:
1. Connect with your social media community with the goal of engaging large numbers of followers in efforts to raise awareness about drug deals on social sites.
2. Enlist the help of “influencers,” or followers with lots of social media visibility.
Social media influencers, are ordinary people (as opposed to celebrities) who built a reputation for themselves on social sites. In an online world engorged with information – both accurate and false –followers rely on influencers as (an ideally trustworthy) source of information that matches their views, and/or interests saving them the trouble of sifting through the daily flood of news themselves.
While you may not have anyone in your social media community with the reach of the most well-known “influencers,” you can certainly find a handful of followers who in turn have a large number of followers and frequent social media activity who share your company’s goal of saving lives.
If you’re unfamiliar with how to create a social media strategy and structure a social media campaign, there are many resources available, including tutorials on most of the social media sites themselves as well as professional informational resources such as LinkedIn Premium. If your budget allows and/or you don’t have the bandwidth to tackle the project yourself, you can also consider subcontracting with a social media marketing expert.