POSTER: Being Where the People Are: Facebook Use Among US Public Health Organizations


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Poster Session, Medical Library Association Annual Meeting 2011.

By Lorelei Woody, Gillian Mayman, Nathan Hill, Kate Saylor; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Describes results of a survey & exploration of facebook use by public health departments across the US, summer 2010.

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POSTER: Being Where the People Are: Facebook Use Among US Public Health Organizations

  1. 1. Lorelei Woody*, Gillian Mayman±, Nathan Hill¤, Kate Saylor* Being Where the People Are: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI Health Sciences Library, ±Center for Managing Chronic Facebook Use Among US Public Health Organizations *Taubman Disease, ¤School of InformationObjective Data Collection (June 2010) Is Anyone Listening? 216 Facebook pages were identified*To better understand how US public health departments are using Of 207 pages analyzed… 207 were eligible for inclusion**Facebook. Average # of fans: 124.4 72 responded to our survey Most frequent # of fans (mode) 0.0 27 sent page dataMethods Middle reported # of fans (median) 54.0 *focused on pages only, not profiles or groups. **tried to omit pages for specific programs or units within 96 have fewer than 50 fans (46%)This study used a variety of methods to obtain a full picture of larger departments. Pages were located through search 34 have more than 200 fans (16%)Facebook use by public health organizations. First, unobtrusive option within Facebook, as well as advanced Google search in “site:”observation was employed as we searched for and visited the Highest Number of Fans / Likes…Facebook pages of health departments and public health Status Update 1,295 Michigan Department of Community Healthorganizations in the United States. Data visualization tools were 1,197 Alabama Department of Public Healthused to perform basic content analysis to identify common themes …in May 2011, search retrieved 1,087 Saint Louis County Department of Healthin the topics and postings on each organizations’ “Wall.” Next, we total of 293 pages, suggestingcontacted each page administrator via email and Facebook Facebook use by public health Who’s using it? Learning From Othersmessages to request completion of a questionnaire. This departments continue to rise Geographic distribution of Public Health Department Facebook Pagesdescriptive survey provided more information about the goals Survey respondents commented on whatbehind Facebook use and allowed us to learn more about how the was going well, and what challenges theyFacebook presence was being maintained, by whom, and for what Hot Topics? faced. Common topics expressed were:purpose. Finally, we requested reports from the Facebook Most public health departments used Barriers“Insights” analytic tools to describe the demographics and level of their Facebook page to communicate •Time (to keep content fresh)activity of those interacting with the organizations’ Facebook pages. about new resources, community •Promotion to clients; lack of awareness events, or preventative health •Limitations of “pages” instead of profiles •Training staff (high turnover of student Phase Two: Phase Three: information. When we compared wall Phase One: workers) and getting buy-in from supervisors Collect Page Survey Organizations about Page Administrators’ posting content with level of •Technical/access related (firewall or policy Data (207 pages) Facebook Use “Insights” reports interaction or number of fans, no prohibits social media access) (72 responses) (27 received) strong themes emerged. What are they talking about? Strengths Word cloud from ten most recent wall posts from all pages combined • Saw increased traffic to the departments’ main websitesResults Perceived Effectiveness of Perceptions of Success • Improved communication across staff groups Facebook Page within a health departmentMany US public health organizations are using Facebook to We asked Facebook Page administrators to describe the perceived • Low cost; ease of useconnect with the populations they serve. Pages are maintained by effectiveness of their Facebook effort in meeting the organizations’ goals. 2 3 (3%) (4%) 5 (7%) 3 • Informal advertising for smaller events (reachstaff from a variety of positions, with most requiring less than 1 We found no relationship between perceived effectiveness and number 12 (4%) different audience than PSAs)hour per week or 1-2 hours per week to maintain. Midwestern of fans or interactions on Facebook. This criteria was entirely subjective. (17%) 9states appear to have adopted Facebook more widely than other (13%) Limitations & Future Directionsregions. Common themes in organizations Facebook posts includepreventive care and announcements of new programs. Few topics What’s Working? What’s Not Working Well? Our study focused only on Facebookor types of posts seem to engender community responses. Most 38 (53%) Pages. By neglecting profiles, groups, or Of those who perceived their Facebook effort to be Very Effective (3 of 72) other variations, we did miss out on someorganizations are targeting younger adults through their Facebookpresence. Over 70% of those surveyed believe their Facebook • All have two people working on their page Very Ineffective organizations’ use of this social media tool. Ineffective • 66% spent 1 hour or less per week; 34% spend 2-3 hours per week Somewhat Ineffective By using data from page administrators’campaign is effective. A small amount of information was collected Neither Effective nor Ineffective • All have some direct involvement from senior staff Somewhat Effective Facebook “Insights” reports, we had hopedabout the organizations’ Facebook “fans” but data was insufficient Effective Very Effectiveto accurately describe the populations viewing public health to triangulate our data and compare target Of those who perceived their Facebook effort to be Effective (12 of 72) demographic with actual audiencedepartments’ pages. • Most (46%) have one person working on the page (25% = 2 people; 17% = 3 people; 16% = 4+ people) reached. Data collected through this study • Most (50%) spent between 2 and 5 hours a week on their facebook page (33% = 1-2 hours; 8% = 5 was insufficient to perform this analysis.Conclusions hours+; 8% “other”)While most public health organizations using Facebook to connect More Information Of those who perceived their Facebook effort to be Very Ineffective (2 of 72)with their populations feel this activity is successful, more research • Have one or two people (administrative assistant or supervisory staff) maintaining their page LORELEIH@UMICH.EDUis needed to determine return on investment or the impact of • All spend less than one hour maintaining their page KMACDOUG@UMICH.EDUFacebook presence on effective outreach community health. • All cited technical issues (firewall, policies, etc)