Harvard researchers are attempting to influence TikTok creators and alter their content-producing behaviour via seeding evidence-based information through toolkits.


In the 1980s too many drivers drove drunk. Harvard university set out to change this. Researchers asked TV writers of hit shows including ‘Cheers’ ‘Dallas’ and ‘L.A. Law’ to script-in references to “designated drivers”. 

The tactic worked. Three years later ‘designated driver’ was such a well-used term it made it into the dictionary. 

Today, Harvard hopes to pull the same trick with mental health and TikTok influencers.

Researchers are attempting to influence targetted TikTok creators and alter their content-producing behaviour via seeding evidence-based information through toolkits

Forty-two TikTok-based influencers agreed to be part of the study and received digital tool kits organised into five “core themes”: difficulty accessing careintergenerational traumamind-body linksthe effect of racism on mental health and climate anxiety.

The Harvard approach is similar to Delicious nuggets - the brainchild of The Earth Alliance (see Creator Briefing #121) which offers creators bite-sized, science-backed fact-snacks for creators in include in their content and help them change the conversation about the climate crisis.

The difference is that Delicious nuggets come ‘oven ready’ whilst the Harvard alternative makes influencers work to find key information and include onerous CTAs.

Though the marketing channel is different, one truism has lasted the test of 35 years. Writing in 1988 about the designated driver campaign the Harvard Center for Health Communication wrote: 

“Entertainment not only mirrors social reality, but also helps shape it by depicting what constitutes popular opinion, by influencing people’s perceptions of the roles and behaviors that are appropriate to members of a culture, and by modeling specific behaviors. The strength of this approach is that short messages, embedded within dialogue, are casually presented by characters who serve as role models within a dramatic context, facilitating social learning.”

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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