First aid
Social media

A heart stopping moment

The British Heart Foundation used social media to encourage 100,000 people to learn CPR on its annual Restart a Heart Day

‘You’re unlucky,’ reads the tweet. ‘Someone called for help but they thought doing CPR might make things worse. You didn’t make it.’

These are stark words to read on a standard Tuesday morning, but this is exactly what the British Heart Foundation tweeted out to more than 18,000 people in its attempt to get them to learn CPR.

To mark its Restart a Heart Day, the Foundation’s original tweet presented Twitter users with a situation: ‘You’re on Twitter. Your heart stops. You go into cardiac arrest,’ before inviting them to Favourite the tweet to see what happens next.

Through clever use of Twitter’s auto-reply function, nine in ten people received a similar message to mine. They had ‘died’ due to CPR not being administered. Whilst the crux of the ‘unlucky’ messages was the same, there were around three variants to help build a stronger narrative. ‘We didn’t want everyone to get the same tweet. With only two options, it would be too binary and not very engaging,’ says Athar Abidi, social media manager at the British Heart Foundation.

The tweet linked to a video that explained that fewer than one in ten people in the UK survive a cardiac arrest if suffered outside of the hospital and encouraged people to sign up to CPR classes. Restart a Heart Day, which is now in its third year, centred around getting 100,000 people learning CPR in one day, including lessons in schools nationwide.

Though the tweets drove 4,000 website visits to the to the landing page linked to in the autoresponse, Abidi notes that the Foundation is unlikely to have conclusive statistics on exactly how many people signed up to CPR training due to the involvement of other organisations in the campaign, such as St John Ambulance and local services.

However, the performance of the content produced certainly tells a positive tale. The tweet alone reached 1.6 million people on the day of launch, including Twitter founder himself Jack Dorsey, who both Liked and retweeted it.

‘We were heartened to see such a positive response from the sector itself and the digital community,’ says Abidi. ‘Our reach on the day was huge. It was part of a larger activity; we had a livestream on Facebook teaching CPR and another one later on Periscope. We created infographics. We had a whole suite of content tailored to our platforms.’

Evergreen, or continually relevant, content produced by the Foundation also performed better than ever on Restart a Heart Day. For example, a Facebook post featuring an infographic that describes the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest always ‘performs well’, according to Abidi, but was shared more than 20,000 times on Restart a Heart Day.

Abidi is clear that Twitter was instrumental in creating the user-experience at the heart of the autoreply campaign. The function has to be built in with code, and nobody but Twitter themselves could do that. Abidi also notes that the benefit of the autoreplies helped the campaign achieve the success it did by elevating it on the day of launch. ‘Each of these replies included the hashtag, which meant we were trending pretty much from launch into the early afternoon. It also ensured the prominence of the original tweet, when people clicked on the hashtag, and it appeared in top tweets.’

Initially, Twitter approached the Foundation with hopes of working with them to test its functionality and whilst its initial idea was similar to the end product, the charity worked hard to align the tone of the campaign with the rest of the organisation.

‘We toned it down a bit,’ says Abidi. ‘Our audiences are closer to the mortality of heart-related diseases – we changed the tone of messaging to be more in line with the brand which we’re obviously more familiar with. It is important to balance the shock with the solution. We would never talk about a problem without positioning ourselves, or in this case, CPR, as a solution.’

So while nine out of ten people received the ‘unlucky’ message on this year’s Restart a Heart Day, perhaps many will be luckier in the future, thanks to the British Heart Foundation and its partnership with Twitter.

This article first appeared in issue 110