If you’re a woman between the ages of 18 and 25 who lives in Wisconsin and has a Facebook account, you may have seen an ad pop up on your Facebook page asking, “Losing more than blood? Missing work or school due to heavy period or nosebleed could be von Willebrand disease (VWD).”
The ad is a new outreach initiative from the Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation (GLHF) in Milwaukee for undiagnosed women and girls with VWD. GLHF has a long history of creating programs targeting women and girls with bleeding disorders, including P.O.W.E.R. (Providing Outreach to Women and Girls through Education and Referral), education for Girl Scouts and involvement in Project Red Flag, the precursor to the National Hemophilia Foundation’s (NHF’s) Victory for Women awareness campaign. Danielle Leitner Baxter, executive director of the chapter, is proud of that history. “We’ve always had volunteers and staff who were passionate about the importance of having women’s programs,” she says.
Using Facebook for outreach to women is new for the chapter. Kathryn Reese, MPH, regional coordinator of Region V-West, knew that social media platforms such as Facebook have become a dominant way young women interact with one other. “I also looked at who was getting treated at the HTCs (hemophilia treatment centers) in our region, and that number was not matching up with the projected number of women affected by bleeding disorders,” she says. Placing an ad on Facebook, with the ability to target a specific area, gender and age range, seemed to be the perfect solution. The chapter received a grant from NHF to create and promote the ad.
GLHF formed a committee of volunteers, including people with backgrounds in social media, a professor of advertising at Marquette University and women with bleeding disorders. The committee developed three ads and tested their effectiveness on two focus groups of women in the desired demographic. The best of the three ads has been running on Facebook since August 15, 2012.
The ad includes three parts, depending on how the user interacts with it. When a woman clicks on the ad, she is taken to a quiz about VWD symptoms. If the results of the quiz indicate that the respondent might have a bleeding disorder, she receives information about local HTCs and bleeding disorders, with links to NHF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’ve had nearly 6 million impressions,” says Baxter. Impressions are the number of times the ad has appeared on a person’s Facebook page. As of January 2013, the ad has generated 1,139 clicks for the quiz, and 117 people have taken it.
Running an ad on Facebook turned out to be affordable, but slightly complicated, says Baxter. An advertiser sets the amount of money it’s willing to pay for a click, and Facebook then orders the ads based on how much all advertisers for that demographic are willing to pay. The cost of the ad is paid from the Victory for Women grant. Once the money is gone, GLHF will stop running the ad.
Baxter wants to educate women and girls, regardless of whether they have a bleeding disorder. “If one woman or girl winds up getting diagnosed because of this ad, then it’s a success,” she says.
GLHF is enlarging its women’s outreach beyond Facebook ads. It is developing a program to educate school nurses. “We want to help those nurses recognize some of the symptoms of a bleeding disorder,” Baxter says. The chapter is working in conjunction with the Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana and Minnesota/Dakota chapters to develop the program.
“We’re always looking for new ways to reach out to women and girls,” says Baxter.