I joined Facebook a few years ago to stay connected with my younger sister Emma who is 20 years younger than I am (see picture – Emma is in the middle with my son on her lap). Since then, I also joined Instagram and Twitter for the same reason. Up until recently, I did not realize the power of these social media tools beyond keeping tabs on Emma.
Now I recognize that social media tools play an important role in expanding the reach of public health initiatives. Here are 3 reasons why social media is not just for the youngsters
1) Widespread Use
As described in Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2014, 71% of all online adults use Facebook, and 52% of online adults now use two or more social media sites http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/01/PI_SocialMediaUpdate20144.pdf. The sheer number of users is reason enough to consider using social media for the promotion of public health. It’s important to note that Facebook is more than twice as popular as other social media sites for adults ages 18 and up. BUT – it’s worth considering use of other sites as well, as usage of other sites (LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter)is growing each year.
Note: There’s hope for old fogies to learn how to use social networking tools for health. Lynda.com tutorials are very helpful in taking you step-by-step to set up your social media site and create your digital identity.
2) Quantifiable Public Health Impact
Use of social media and associated technology has been proven to make quantifiable public health impacts. For example, a recent study looking at the impact of a Facebook group with weekly discussions about sexual health significantly increased condom use http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/10/11/social-media-could-boost-condom-use-study-suggests . A key finding was that six months after the study, the intervention group no longer showed increase use compared to controls. Therefore, an important lesson is that interventions must be run continuously to maintain impact. While this is near impossible with traditional interventions, it is not difficult with social media based interventions.
3) Critical for Public Health Organizations
In the modern world, the success of public health organizations and non-profits is often dependent on clever use of social networking tools which can boost the reach and impact of organizations and
Increase potential donors (see this video example of how San Francisco Aids Foundation uses Social Media to advance their mission and gain supporters https://vimeo.com/87834938).
BONUS: VIDEO INTERVIEW to shed light on empowering seniors to engage social media for health
In considering the reach of social media “beyond the youngsters,” I wanted to explore the potential of empowering seniors to engage in social media to improve health. Currently, according to Pew Research Center, 31% of all seniors (65+)use Facebook.
I interviewed a senior liver transplant patient from Stanford and asked him about his use of online resources: https://vimeo.com/133725452
Note: when exploring what makes for an interesting interview video, I came up with the following tips for increasing engagement with the video interview (easier critiqued than done!):
1) changing camera angle on person
2) interspersing relevant images while still hearing person’s voice
3) different people talking
4) identify people using written titles
5) shorter is better – look what can be conveyed in 3 minutes! (Paul Farmer talking about innovation) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5PFoqsyzI4