Cities Use Social Media Program To Counter Vaccine Mistrust

Misinformation from social media is frequently pointed to as a source fueling mistrust about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide.

But the city of San Jose, California has launched a pilot campaign leveraging social media to have just the opposite effect and help allay fears and concerns about taking the vaccine.

Partnering with the city in the effort is the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and marketing agency Xomad.

Local residents with different cultural backgrounds are being recruited for the campaign, the main idea being that their diverse voices and languages will help persuade residents in hard-to-reach communities about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

Cultural trauma, distrust of authorities and a lack of transportation to vaccine sites have led to lower vaccination rates among the city’s, Latinx and Black residents. 

With a $125,000 investment from Knight Foundation, city officials launched an outreach campaign with Xomad, using the agency’s proprietary Advisory Council platform. The platform identifies local micro and nano influencers -- social media messengers with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers -- and connects them with city officials to broadcast public health information about the vaccines.

To help ensure accurate information is being delivered, all content is fact-checked by city officials before it goes live. In return, the messengers are paid for their creativity and time spent on crafting and sharing relatable content on their social networks.

The social media messengers involved in the campaign are spreading the word through hashtags #StayHealthySJ and #ThisIsOurShotSJ. Their first postings recently appeared on Instagram.

The San Jose campaign will serve as a pilot from which other cities and civic organizations can glean insights and refine strategies for similar efforts.  

Xomad has seen success with its Advisory Council platform in other areas of the country, including communities in New Jersey, South Carolina and health departments in Oklahoma and North Carolina.  

Xomad CEO Rob Perry described the influencer program as “the ultimate democratic tool and platform where government officials and citizens may re-envision civic engagement in the digitally connected age.”

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