Applying a social currency model to increase mobile research engagement

Applying a social currency model to increase mobile research engagement

Demonstrating long-term mobile research engagement is perhaps one of most discussed topics in mobile research today. Will patients engage beyond the first 30, 60, or 90 days? Will we be able to get the full amount of data we need? These are surely questions researchers are asking themselves as their first mobile research app launches.

Engagement requires a coordinated effort between the study parameters, the actual design and usability of the mobile app, and the surrounding marketing effort to sustain engagement. This marketing effort could be as small as a monthly e-mail check in with your study population. Or it could be a full-blown social currency program that let’s study participants be rewarded for and show their pride in participation of your study.

A big caveat to this is sensitivity to the patient population. An outward-facing social program is certainly not appropriate for mobile research apps focused on conditions with a perceived stigma—direct marketing to that patient population is the best way to maintain this group’s privacy while supporting engagement.

Social Currency in a Nutshell

Social currency is your cause’s (or study’s) value in its ability to be shared with your patient population or the public at large. Any marketing effort that allows them to “belong” to your study and be part of the greater good is where that value lies. It can extend beyond the study to the actual population or disease state that is the focus of the study. If there is any pride of participation in the study that would compel a participant to want to let the world know, that’s social currency. And leveraging that can do wonders for engagement.

Rewarding Study Participation with High-Quality Social Content

The omnipresence of social media in our daily lives has made content curators of us all. Think of it this way: when do you post to Facebook? After making a sandwich, when taking out the trash, or at your daughter’s high-school graduation? Probably the graduation, right? And do you pick and choose what you share with your group, saving only the most relevant and powerful content to associate with? In doing both of these—sharing the graduation (not the sandwich), and only sharing the most credible news article, you are in essence curating content. You are your own social media editor.

With a social currency program, you are giving your study participants credible, "feel good", accomplishment-based content they can share with their community. This is the digital version of the check plus on the chalkboard. This is the “I Voted!” sticker on lapels in November. This is the pink donor indicator on your Driver’s License. It tells the world "I am participating in something meaningful…take a look!"

So a social currency content model could look like this:

  • Every participant can download a “I’m a Participant” Facebook Profile Picture
  • Participants that participate every day for one month in mobile research app get a congratulations notification they can share via social media
  • Participants that post every day for two months in the mobile research app get a congratulations notification they can share via social plus a customizable Facebook profile picture
  • Additional content can be deployed for longer engagement periods

Again, the point here is to reward higher engagement with more credible, shareable content. The content must be worthy of a share, it must make the participant feel good and excited in order for it to be shared.

Why Social Currency Content Helps Your Mobile Research

What we're looking to do here is two-fold:

  • Increase engagement within your study population and
  • Get the halo effect of others outside of the study seeing your patient population share content related to your research

It's not difficult to do, but it does need to be designed into your study experience so that the patient feels instant gratification once they’ve reached a new level of engagement. This becomes a key component of your mobile research retention efforts—this can be a “set it and forget it” aspect of your app that supports your patients without having to make unique outreach efforts to specific patients (which is a high cost activity better used for customer service efforts or medical questions).

With social currency content wrapped around your mobile research app, you will see your research app become quite the social media sensation. It’s definitely a new era for research, but with patients now responsible for their own engagement, this is the new way to play on their court.