3 Reasons Social Media Is Not Just For the Youngsters


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


7 thoughts on “3 Reasons Social Media Is Not Just For the Youngsters

  1. Your picture and personal story at the beginning drew me in to read the rest of your post. I like how you incorporated your vimeo video to illustrate one of your points. The tips for creating a better video interview are very helpful and even better that you acknowledge it’s easer said than done (so true!). Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Liana,
      Your mention of Stanford in your post and your video interview got me interested in looking at how social media might be used or taught at academic institutions with the goal of helping healthcare patients. The following article complemented your post by connecting the difficulties of organ transplantation with possible solutions social media can offer: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/jennifer-aaker-harnessing-social-media-make-difference. It discusses a class at Stanford called The Power of Social Technology. Although this class is taught at the Graduate School of Business, it think it shows that potential value there is in using social media for health by people of all ages in all kinds of business including health care. Nonprofit health organizations must have a good business model to be sustainable and using social media is a must. Adding a references to what prestigious institutions are teaching our new leaders could add value to your post in addition to the fact that you’re an alumni 🙂

      I think your content and links to more information are great. A few more pictures might break up the text a little bit. Alternatively, putting still images of the videos so they can play directly on the page would be a way to add images and links to the videos simultaneously. (I haven’t figured out how to do this yet though!). Overall I really enjoyed reading your post.

  2. Hi Liana. I love the personal story, and it is really fascinating to watch the social media landscape change over time. The Pew Research Report was a great find! Thank you for sharing. Wanted to also share that Mayo Clinic is also leading the way to advance public health impact through the use of social media (http://network.socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/). You had really effective use of mixed media (still images and video). I think there is a way to embed video into your blog post (http://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds). I did not actually try this, so I’m not sure that it works. A really great job!

  3. Hi, Liana. I agree that mixing your media and personalising the stories makes this post engaging and easy to read. I suffer a bit from text overload in my blog, too, and the comments here remind that it helps people to read it when there are more pictures. Thanks for the video interview tips. Unfortunately, I’ve seen them to late to use them.

  4. Liana,
    To follow up on a point you made in your post and in your video is how many people with serious health conditions would like to find information or support groups online, but don’t have the faintest idea where to start.

    A distant family member asked for help setting up a blog about her heart support device, because she wanted to find some other people who were sharing her experience. In about two minutes I found three support groups for her, just by googling around.

    Many older people just don’t think to go online for support, because it’s not part of their everyday experience. And online support groups can be especially helpful for people who are isolated either by geography or because they are housebound.

  5. Nice post Liana. The mixed use of media was great. The links added in the content was very helpful (maybe add links for the Lynda tutorials too?) and encourages the reader to take action.
    I noticed you used the style of extrapolating from the personal to the general in your last post too. Its great and really suits your writing voice. Well done.

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