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Data Visualization of Texas Women’s Health Online – National Women’s Health Week

To cap off National Women’s Health Week, Healthcake is releasing the results of a recent online study it conducted of women’s health concerns and the sources of insight they rely on for answers.

The research targeted a sample of 400 women between ages 18 and 54 who live in Texas. It revealed that 43% of women represented in the target sample are conducting health searches online at least once per month. They are hunting for explanations of symptoms, conditions and treatments in 57%, 38% and 24% of cases, respectively. This insight points to how a sudden symptom or a recent diagnosis is a familiar trigger of health inquiries online. Not surprisingly, doctors were the preferred source of information among 67% of respondents. Perhaps it’s more interesting to note that when asked about their preferred sources of information, 30% of women in the survey also responded “People like me” while 27% said nurses and 27% chose survivors. Among the topics respondents are interested in, some of the more commons ones were weight, pain, cancer, diabetes, depression and mental health.

Figure 1: Texas Women’s Health Online Data Visualization

TexasWomenHealthOnline2Source: TexasWomenHealthOnline-Visualization

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The 3 “e”s to Supercharging Your WoMO – Part 1

While WoMO is difficult to cultivate, investing time in a deliberate and consistent approach to what I call the 3 “e”s can supercharge your efforts. That is to say that empathy, engagement and empowerment are essential in attracting an online following. We will explore this in three parts. In the first one, let’s double-click on empathy to better appreciate what it is and what it is not.

Previously, I defined empathy as:

Having the ability to relate to others and perceive their feelings from their perspective instead of your own, commonly thought of as “walking in their shoes.” In order to empathize with your audience, you have to get to know them. Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience by actively listening to their stories and reflecting heavily on those stories.

There are several calls to action in there, but I’ll rephrase the first one as a question because it’s easy to miss: Do you have the ability to relate to others? Well aside from a formal psychiatric diagnosis, here are a few cautionary signs to look for:

  • You have a mandate to increase followers or friends on Facebook or Twitter or some other popular social network
  • You are conducting a lot of market research to better understand your target audience’s wants, needs and behavior
  • Your mission is short-term and success will be measured by short-term financial or commercial goals

These are all reasonable objectives but sometimes hyper focus on increasing them can actually subtract from empathy, the opposite of what you need to grow WoMO. Typically, on social networks, followers are attracted to great content that speaks to them and relates to them. Just be your authentic self in these forums and the right audience will find you instead of the other way around. That’s also why you should have to conduct very little research about your audience. In this case, build it and they will come makes sense, assuming you also develop effective mechanisms to share your content, which we will get to in part 3 of this series. It comes back to your mission…is it well-defined in terms that your audience understands? Even better, did you let your audience define your mission? Trying to build WoMO as a means of financial gain in and of itself will lead you to disappointing results. Your audience will spot a veiled self-interested campaign from many digital miles away, but if you listen to their signals and simply adopt their objectives as your mission, right away you would be relating to them.


Once you pass the litmus test of relate-ability, the next call to action is to “Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience.” Emphasis on real people. How else can you know “real people” unless you follow them? Where do they party? Where do they study? How do they eat? Who do they spend time with? What do they talk about and where do they talk about it? You might think this sounds a little stalker-paparazzi-like…because it is! Just don’t do anything illegal. Ideally, you already know some real people who you relate to and now you just want to blow that up from an N of a few to an N of large numbers of people, so you can interview those you know. Still, if you really don’t know for sure, then take a field trip. Grab a pen and paper (digital or physical, your choice), then go outside. Go anywhere there are people. Observe. Take notes. It helps to start with a hypothesis like “Our audience lives their days at Starbucks and their nights at art galleries…” Go to those places, listen to those around you and see if you’re right! Iterate.

Core to the idea that you empathize with your audience is one, having the ability to relate to them and two, getting to know real people who you believe are part of your audience and listen to their stories. If their stories sound like your’s, or your mission could have been copy/pasted from what you hear, then you’re on your way to cultivating empathy. You’ll find that your WoMO will take on a new life of its own too.

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Do you have WoMO?

You’re talking to a friend, a coworker or a relative and they mention the “new” health concern they are experiencing, a place they’ve been to, a lover they have fallen for or a thing they bought — a gadget, an outfit, a car, a meal, etc. If you remember the last time you found yourself in this situation listening to a beloved or not so beloved newbie go on and on, maybe you can recall how you felt. Were you intrigued or excited? Was it a happy feeling or did you feel sad? Maybe a little jealous?

WoMO is Word of Mouth Online. Word of mouth has been a predominant way to spread ideas for ages and 90% of it happens offline. At the core, it’s about storytelling, creating a narrative that educates, entertains or informs, invoking strong feelings in an audience. Creating word of mouth online, particularly for health related topics, depends on the sharing of really powerful stories from person to person and spreading to larger and larger audiences or multiple different types of audiences on the Internet. No wonder it’s challenging and near the top of any business’ communications spending list.

Now let’s not confuse WoMO with WOMM or Word of Mouth Marketing. While WoMO happens naturally without any intentional incentive, WOMM is a deliberate effort by marketers to create word of mouth both online and offline.

So, do you have WoMO? There are a number of variables to consider when answering this question, but you can summarize them into what I call the Three E’s: 1. Empathy, 2. Engagement and 3. Empowerment.

Empathy is having the ability to relate to others and perceive their feelings from their perspective instead of your own, commonly thought as “walking in their shoes.” In order to empathize with your audience, you have to get to know them. Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience by actively listening to their stories and reflecting heavily on those stories. The next step, engagement, requires you to become a partner to select members of your online audience to help them tell their story. This can take the form of recorded videos, photos and written word and live video streams or pod casts. These can be generated by you or by users themselves. Lastly, you focus on empowerment. This phase of building WoMO takes those stories and gives your online audience an easy way to consume, distribute and discuss them. Often, social media is a preferred vehicle but it doesn’t have to be. Email and texting are still very potent forms of communication that appeal to almost everyone.

It is essential to progress through deliberate, repeated phases of empathy, engagement and empowerment to build and maintain WoMO. In a series of upcoming posts, we’ll dive deeper into the Three E’s and how to measure your effectiveness in each one of them.