#Scarfie for Asthma UK cuts through the chill

How the January cold snap gave Asthma UK an opportunity to raise awareness through a targeted social media campaign

What is it?

Here's a statistic you might not be aware of: cold air can trigger asthma attacks in as many as three-quarters of people with asthma. With 5.4 million sufferers (one in 11 of the UK population), that's a lot of people potentially at risk. However, by wrapping a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth you will warm up the air before you breathe it in, reducing the risk of an attack. Pretty simple but potentially life-saving advice.

Asthma UK used the recent cold snap in January to run a reactive social media campaign to increase engagement with existing supporters and followers on social media as well as reaching a new audience.

The charity asked people to take and share a #Scarfie (a selfie with a scarf) on social media. Follow-up asks were also tested, encouraging people to sign up to the charity’s email newsletter to receive more asthma tips and/or donate to the charity (via text to Donate or JustGiving).

What else?

Asthma UK incorporated public outdoor events taking place that week including Lumiere London and the weekend and midweek football matches to increase the campaign's reach. The viral nature of social media proved effective, with feedback from supporters immediate and many saying they had never heard of the tip and that it had helped to improve their asthma. Comments on Twitter included: "Wow, just learnt more from Asthma UK in 5 mins than docs in last 16 weeks" and "Thanks Asthma UK. I have been trying to get my daughter to wear her scarf like this for years and she point blank refused but after showing her the #scarfies it's suddenly become really cool!"

What the charity says

Lindsay Gormley, director of marketing at Asthma UK, said the charity had prepared for a cold snap even though December 2015 was the warmest on record for the UK.

"We had content ready to go and support lined up to respond quickly as soon as the temperature dipped, which allowed us to test and learn different ways of engaging with new audiences by linking with outdoor events," she told Third Sector.

"When a cold snap suddenly hits it can be a real challenge for people with asthma. We knew we’d need to get advice out quickly to help people with asthma cope."


How successful has it been

The freezing weather hit the UK on 14 January and within seven days the charity had reached more than a million people - an increase of 740 per cent in the number of new Facebook followers compared with a normal week and a 220 per cent increase on Twitter.

"We’ve seen more than six times the level of engagement we usually see and #Scarfie has had more than 10 million impressions so far," Gormley said. "But most importantly, people with asthma have told us this simple tip has meant they haven’t had to stop doing the things they love because the weather is cold."

Third Sector verdict

The beauty of Asthma UK's campaign lies in its simplicity; using one of the UK's favourite topics – the weather – to get a serious message across via social media. Ten million twitter impressions was an impressive result for comparatively little effort.

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