Breast Cancer Awareness: A Retrospective Look into the Impact of Social Media on a Global Health Movement

Sarah Shoemaker Sarah Shoemaker

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, second only to skin cancer, affecting 1 in 8 American women annually. October, globally, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time to encourage both women and men to take preventative care to mitigate the risks of this common disease, to support breast cancer patients and survivors, and fundraise for research on prevention, treatment, and a cure. This movement began in 1985 when the American Cancer Society partnered with a pharmaceutical research organization to raise awareness for early prevention for both women and men.

Breast cancer is an illness nonspecific to gender, and according to our social listening tools, an equal amount of attention is paid to Breast Cancer Awareness Month by both men and women. We found that of 3.2 million social media mentions, men and women contributed exactly 50% each to the participation of online conversations.

While this movement began in the United States, it now transcends boarders, reaching from the US, to Nigeria, to the UK, to Ghana, to Korea. While some fundraising and awareness movements may fluctuate in resonance and sentiment on social media, we have found through retroactive search data that the enormity of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with a Twitter reach of 8.5 Billion, has stayed consistent through the years.

Research and support organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation have driven much of this involvement forward, but now efforts have infiltrated sports, pop-culture, and corporate organizations as well. Well-known corporate and sports organizations like the NFL, RealMadrid, and Coca Cola have launched their own awareness and fundraising programs, and celebrities have joined up with brands to do the same; Katy Perry has partnered with QVC for her shoe line (which as of October 12th has raised $55 million for breast cancer research), Rihanna similarly launching an lingerie line to raise money for the Clara Lionel Foundation. These well-known brands and pop-culture icons are now able to spread awareness and drive fundraising efforts forward with their own influence online with social media outreach and marketing.

Since its foundation in 1985, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been driven by large-scale events like Race for the Cure, and Susan G. Komen walks. The advent of social media now represents a unique opportunity to reach an even larger audience, engaging with previously inaccessible audiences, driving fundraising efforts to a global scale, and spreading information of support and treatment worldwide. Social media campaigns by brands and organizations spread this awareness and help to focus social media attention to make October even more impactful to educating the public, supporting patients and survivors, and ultimately finding a cure.

To explore this data yourself and see how your brand can make an impact, check out our Social Solutions here.

Download the full infographic here.