Online Program

Building effective social media for public health

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 10:30 a.m. - 10:50 a.m.

Ricky Leung, Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, University at Albany, SUNY, Rensselaer, NY
Background: Social media is now heavily used by health organizations for various public health purposes—promoting health awareness, enabling patients to express service concerns, and building support groups and communities—among other things. Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of social media, we focus on contents posted in online social media platforms. We classify contents into specific types, and our evaluative measures include the number of subscribers, amount of discussions, and network diversity. Methods: We extract contents from Facebook pages developed by hospitals in Missouri. The contents extracted are wall-posts written by the hospital's Facebook administrator(s) and subscribers to the hospital's Facebook page. We evaluate the effectiveness of different content types based on descriptive statistics and two network diversity indicators. Results: According to our sampling, more than 40% of hospitals in Missouri have built a Facebook page to increase communication with patients. The contents in these Facebook pages can be classified into three types—(1) knowledge; (2) expression; and (3) community-building. Each of these content types serves as a network tie to engage Facebook subscribers, with different degree of effectiveness. Knowledge posts attract more attention (as reflected by the number of “likes”), but expression and community posts generate more in-depth discussions (as reflected by the number of “follow-up posts”). Different contents are associated with different values of social and geographical diversity. Discussions: Social media has been widely integrated into Internet applications, including mobile technologies. Given its immense popularity, social media carries great potentials to increase population health. To realize this potential, scholars and practitioners need to understand how social media may address the population's social needs, but also its limitations. Our research has yielded useful findings; yet, it is limited to hospitals' Facebook pages in Missouri. We aspire to generalize these findings to other social platforms, health organizations and geographical areas in further research.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Communication and informatics
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain specific network measures to evaluate social media Assess the social and geographical coverage of social media for public health purposes Compare the effectiveness of different social media contents Identify demographic and organizational factors that mediate the relationship between contents and social media effectiveness

Keyword(s): Communication Technology, Network Analysis

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal or co-principal investigator of projects on the use of social media by health organizations. Among my scientific interests has been the development of health management theories, network theories, research methodologies, social media research, global health, emerging technology, and information technology for public health purposes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.