Department of Advertising assistant professor John G. Wirtz delivered the keynote address at the 17th Annual Martha Nelson Lewis Symposium, hosted by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. The topic of the talk was using social media to promote health behavior change.

“We are living in an era in which there is almost an unlimited capacity to blast out messages about health and what people should do to decrease their risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes,” Wirtz said. “But just because we post a Facebook message or write a tweet doesn’t mean we are accomplishing our objective—if our objective is to change health attitudes or behavior. Social media can be a great step toward making those changes, but reading a tweet or liking a Facebook post isn’t the same thing as eating an apple or taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator. ”          

One of the studies that Wirtz discussed was a pilot study that he and one of his graduate students Nate Hartmann (M.S. in Advertising, 2015) conducted that used social media to drive traffic to a website that promoted family mealtimes. The project was funded by a grant from the Family Resiliency Center.

“One of the most important findings in that study was how ineffective organic social media content is in today’s media environment,” Wirtz said. “This reinforces the perception that the lines between advertising and public relations—paid media and earned media—continue to blur.”

The Martha Nelson Lewis Symposium is held annually, and it recognizes the contribution of Lewis as a pioneering dietician and graduate of Ohio State University. The theme of this year’s symposium was social media and its potential role in encouraging healthful eating behaviors.