digital advantages using:
- Social media tools
- Smartphone applications
- Channel choice
- Personal health and wellness monitoring tools
CDC’s Top Lessons Learned from Using Social Media
During the last four years, the CDC social media team has learned a number of lessons we want to share with you. We hope these lessons will help you in developing, implementing and evaluating strong social media practices in your organization.
1. Make Strategic Choices and Understand the Level of Effort
Be strategic and follow demographic and user data to make choices based on audience, communications objectives and key messages. Be sure to assess the level of effort needed to maintain these channels such as time and commitment. Often, the resources needed to start and maintain social media projects are different than traditional communication efforts.
2. Go Where the People Are
Social media can help reach people where they are—millions of people use social media and spend a lot of time in these spaces learning, sharing and interacting. The popularity of key social media sites can be assessed by reviewing user statistics and demographics. Additionally, there are several niche social networking sites that target specific groups, like moms, physicians, or racial and ethnic groups; or sites that focus on a particular topic like travel or health.
3. Adopt Low-Risk Tools First
If you are starting out and finding resistance to using social media among your communication team or stakeholders, it may be helpful to first adopt low-risk solutions and later build on your successes. Products such as podcasts, videos and widgets are easily downloadable, and can be accessed from partner sites and posted on your website.
4. Make Sure Messages Are Science-based
As with any effective health communication, messages developed for dissemination through social media channels should be accurate, consistent and science-based.
5. Create Portable Content
Develop portable content—such as mobile applications, widgets and online videos—that can easily extend reach beyond your website to provide credible, timely, and accurate content for partners and others who want to help spread your health messages.
6. Facilitate Viral Information Sharing
Make it easy for people to share your messages and become health advocates. This can be accomplished by using social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube that encourage sharing among users, or you can use tools with sharing features, such as widgets or eCards.
7. Encourage Participation
Social media allows for the tailoring of messages to help express empathy and acknowledge concern, promote action and listen to what people are saying about health-related topics in your community. Two- way conversations can foster meaningful communication with your audience that can help to facilitate relationships, sharing and interaction.
8. Leverage Networks
Social media allows people to easily establish and access networks on a regular basis. For example, Facebook reports the average Facebook user has 130 friends, or a network of 130 people with whom they can easily share information. The average user creates 90 pieces of content each month (Facebook 2011). By strategically leveraging these established networks, you can facilitate information sharing, and in turn, expand the reach of your health message.
9. Provide Multiple Formats
Providing messages in multiple formats increases accessibility, reinforces messages and gives people different ways to interact with your content based on their level of engagement and access to media.
10. Consider Mobile Technologies
More than ninety percent of adults in America subscribe to mobile services. Mobile technology is personal, portable and affordable. It allows the sharing of health information through text messaging, mobile websites and mobile applications.
11. Set Realistic Goals
Social media can raise awareness, increase a user’s knowledge of an issue, change attitudes and prompt behavior change in dynamic, personalized and participatory ways. However, like traditional communication, social media alone may not be able to meet all of your communication goals or address all of the target audiences’ needs. Set your goals accordingly.
12. Learn from Metrics and Evaluate Your Efforts
Digital communications offer many metrics that you can use to focus and improve your communications efforts. Metrics can help you to report usage, monitor trends and gauge the success of specific promotions or outreach efforts. Beyond simple metrics, social media efforts can also be evaluated by measuring the use of information, level of engagement with your content, and health impact. Monitoring trends and discussions on social media networks can also be a valuable way to better understand current interests, knowledge levels and potential misunderstandings or myths about your health topic. Social media provides a direct feedback loop with your audience. By analyzing the feedback available through your social media tools, you can adjust your social media strategy, reshape messages, improve processes or shift tactics.