What marketers can learn from a group of moms leading vaccine discourse on Facebook

Vaccine Talk, a private Facebook group where pro-vaccine and vaccine-hesitant people have evidence-based discussions, is a rare example of civil and productive online discourse between groups who have differing views on COVID-19 vaccines, according to an Aug. 24 Washington Post report.

Kate Bilowitz, an Oakland, Calif.-based mother who works for a real estate company, went to Facebook for information on childhood vaccinations in 2015 after she gave birth. She joined a group run by anti-vaccine moderators, and they ended up kicking her out. After that experience, she and some other mothers formed Vaccine Talk, vowing to create a vaccine discourse group focused on evidence-based information.

"The most important rule was 'civility.' There are some groups online where people just yell at each other. We wanted to just be able to talk to one another without it getting that way," Ms. Bilowitz said.

Every person seeking to join Vaccine Talk must be approved by an administrator, and they must commit to the group's code of conduct. The rules prohibit members from giving medical advice, misrepresenting themselves and harassing other users. Members must also be ready to provide citations within 24 hours for any claim they make.

Vaccine Talk has about 70,000 members, and it is patrolled by 25 moderators and administrators in six countries.

People who are unsure about whether to get vaccinated can be persuaded by learning about others' experiences receiving their shot, according to a new study from Cambridge, Mass.-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has yet to be peer-reviewed. 

A 2020 study from Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University and Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota also shows that social media users who debunk misinformation with evidence-based information might not change the minds of the original poster but can influence other users who see the interaction.

"It feels a lot like Covid is something that is completely out of control and there is nothing we can do, like it’s this out-of-control wildfire, and I’m just one person with a little hose," Ms. Bilowitz said. "But when people reach out to us, it feels like it’s making a little bit of a difference."


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