Exploring young adult perspectives on the use of gamification and social media in a smartphone platform for improving vegetable intake.
Young adults are the poorest consumers of vegetables. Social media and smartphones are frequently used by this demographic and could serve as an engaging medium for nutrition promotion. Five focus groups were conducted to capture participants' perceptions of a theory-based gamified self-monitoring app for improving vegetable intake of young adults. Ranking activities were used to gather feedback on preferences for social media posts. Data arising from group discussion were analysed using NVivo software using a deductive approach to group common ideas into themes. Thirty two participants (14 males) attended (mean age 23.1 (SD 2.7) years). Qualitative analyses of open discussion revealed two major themes regarding preferred features for a smartphone app; (1) the use of visual guides for estimating quantities of vegetables and tracking progress, and (2) a simple interface. Gamification strategies such as earning badges were viewed more positively than the use of a self-reward framework. Social media posts which presented food pictures and recipes were ranked most motivating, while awareness-raising posts received lower scores. Participants indicated a preference for viewing but reluctance to post information onto social media. "Just in time" situational cues were ranked highly and the use of an "authoritative" tone was preferred and associated with credibility. Young adults also ranked messages containing "Gen Y" language highly, with a preference for those which were personally relevant. The proposed use of social media and mobile-gaming was seen as an acceptable approach for improving vegetable intake. Materials should be visually appealing, simply designed, credible, and personally relevant to appeal to this population. This feedback may inform future mobile-phone based interventions targeting improved nutrition in young adults.