Springster – a mobile-first platform to connect vulnerable girls to each other and to relevant information and advice.
The world is getting more connected every day. In 2017 there were nearly 5 billion unique mobile users – 66% of the population. Globally there is a much more burgeoning connectivity amongst females, which means that there are more and more vulnerable girls online. In the next 5 years it is predicted that two out of every three new mobile owners is going to be female.
I was delighted to interview Esther Press, who is the Global Content Manager for Springster, a unique mobile-first behaviour change platform, created by Girl Effect, which aims to build vulnerable girls’ confidence, knowledge and skills. One of Facebook Free Basics’ top five most visited sites, Springster is available in 69 countries across the world and translated into 17 languages. Each time Facebook announces that it will be launching in a new country, Springster ensures content is available for that market. Springster is currently launching in Cameroon, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire.
The project has been designed after extensive research in Asia and Africa with over 350 girls, 100 boys and a number of parents, experts and influencers. Insights from these research workshops enable content to be created that helps girls face their everyday challenges.
Springster has been optimised specifically for low-bandwidth environments so that it is available on feature phones as well as smartphones. The content is inspired by teen media platforms like Buzzfeed and the Khan Academy. Springster currently has around 1.3 million average monthly users and received 30 million unique visitors since its launch in 2015.
Springster has four key ‘deeper dive’ markets – South Africa, Nigeria, Philippines and Indonesia. In each of these markets there are dedicated content teams made up of girl writers, researchers, creatives, planners and account managers.
Esther commented “We have a unique evidence-based approach to content creation. In each of the key markets we carry out extensive research into the cultural and social elements which affect the kind of content that girls want to be delivered. It’s super localised and personalised. The rest of the markets benefit from a global content set and Girl Effect work with global freelancers, where we have a roster of incredible writers who are based across the world. We don’t just work with writers in the UK. In the future we aim to localise and tailor content in more countries.”
Moderation and Safeguarding
In each of the key markets, there are dedicated moderators called “Big Sisters”. Their persona is a trusted, sassy, older sister. All of the Big Sisters are trained in child safeguarding and gender issues and work on the Springster content management system to answer all the comments. In Nigeria they can receive over 3000 comments per month. There’s also a stringent flagging process in place for profanities and risky comments, whereas in the global markets comments are not switched on.
People can only comment on the site once they have registered. When individuals register no personal identifiable details are taken. The big difference from platforms like Facebook is that no personal information is asked for. Individuals are encouraged to set up a username which has no link to their real identity. There is no messaging platform within the site, so no one can contact individuals directly.
Entertainment with a purpose
Springster at the end of the day is a behaviour change product. The site needs to be entertaining to capture girls’ attention, but every single article has a purpose. Girls benefit from the reassurance and advice generated by shared stories and experiences from other girls like them. Content that caters for girls’ needs is often hard to find and topics they want to find out more about e.g. periods, relationships, sex are often not readily available. It is important that articles are culturally on trend, looking at topics of the day such as K-Pop and celebrity culture. As Esther commented “We put the girl at the heart of everything we do. We want to celebrate the diverse, inspirational and convention-defying experiences of girls. We look at the attitudes, knowledge and behaviour that we need to change to impact their world.”
Even the use of imagery is extensively tested so that it is relevant. In Indonesia girls responded mostly to quirky drawings and cute illustrations, whilst in South Africa the research showed that girls would find photography more appealing and engaging.
Springster has a custom-built dashboard to measure the impact of its activities. Using a range of measurements such as surveys, comment analysis, site analytics and interviews with girls who have used the platform they are aiming to measure changes across all of the impact areas that they have identified. This data also informs what kinds of stories Springster need to focus on in the future.
In the future Springster intend to extend their reach in the social media ecosphere. They are currently researching options to introduce YouTube and Instagram in their key markets, but are also considering BBM, WhatsApp and Dark Social.
Crucially, the team are working on plans to better utilise the incredibly rich data related to reach, engagement and participation on Springster, by launching a new measurement dashboard in 2018. This dashboard will not only measure how girls use the platform, but to what extent it has helped shift girls’ knowledge, attitude and behaviour in the offline world too. This innovative approach has seen the brand featured as a best practice case study by DIAL, the Digital Impact Alliance at the United Nations Foundation, as part of their series on the ‘Principles for Digital Development’.
To find out more about Springster click here: http://www.girleffect.org/what-we-do/springster/by