Social Networking for Behavior Change Is Here to Stay

If you’ve friended someone lately — or shared a personal triumph with your followers — you’re in good company. About 58 million Americans use social media, and not just to post their latest awkward family photos.

A growing number of social media users are going public with efforts to lose weight, get fit, or stress less. These lifestyle-changers have high hopes that online friends will hold them accountable, inspire them, and cheer them on — increasing their odds of success. But that’s not all.

Social networking appeals to the human need to feel connected — and to have fun. Think of it as the modern-day version of the traditional weight loss support group, for example. Nobody wants to undergo the challenges of weight loss alone; we want to share our experiences — good and bad — and learn from each other. We crave that sense of camaraderie and fun that comes from working together toward a common goal. And maybe most of all, we want someone to notice when we lose a few pounds.

The advent of smart phones and a dazzling array of wellness apps means we carry support groups in our pockets… connecting whenever and wherever we want. With the touch of a button, we can post our latest blood pressure, share pounds lost or gained, or give someone else a virtual high five for meditating 3 days in a row.

So what does this mean for the health promotion professional? If you’re not already immersed in the intersection of behavior change and social networking, it’s time to dive in. Because whether or not your wellness program includes a social networking feature, your participants are already there. They’re sharing workout stats on MyFitnessPal and FitBit™, inspiring weight loss buddies on LoseIt!, and participating in chronic disease-specific forums. They’re getting immediate feedback on wellness accomplishments, encouragement when they relapse, and lots of kudos.

Social networking for health and wellness is growing rapidly. In comparison, your wellness program will come across as increasingly out of touch and dull if it’s missing. Make this the year you get up to speed on social media. Try a few wellness apps and notice what a difference it makes just to know you have friends tuned in to your progress. And include social networking in your next wellness campaign.

“Wall”-type forums are a good way to start. They’re included in many of the most popular Health Enhancement Systems products such as Walktober, 10K-A-Day, and All In. Helping people connect along the road to better health makes behavior change more palatable, fun, and likely to stick. To engage more potential participants, meet them where they already are: in the world of social networking.

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