Whether you love using social media or run away screaming from it, it has become a tool that will continue to be integrated in nearly all facets of life. In short, we must learn to live with it. In my undergraduate work at San Francisco State University, I was part of the Student Health Center’s Sexual Health PEACH group (Peer Educators Advocating Campus Health). When I joined in 2008, this program was in it’s infancy. We knew social media would be a crucial tool to utilize, so we began our social media journey. And boy, did we have some learning to do! We knew Facebook was the most popular form of social media, so this is where we decided to start. Today, Facebook is still the most popular social media site, though its overall growth has slowed.
First of all, we began by creating a profile for our group. No, not a Facebook page or Facebook group (I’ll explain the difference shortly), but a personal profile for a person we named ShealthPeach. Of the ten members at the time, we were not Facebook savvy and were unaware of the options available to us. At events, we would ask those interested in following us online to request us as a friend. In fact, you can still search ShealthPeach as a person on Facebook, however the profile is inactive. ShealthPeach was even in an “open relationship.” Funny, but this wasn’t exactly the platform we were looking for.
Did you know there is a difference between a Facebook group and a Facebook page? We sure didn’t! In 2009, we created a Facebook group called PEACH World. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content. So, say you regularly meet up with people to walk your dog on Sundays and are looking for ways to coordinate better. Well, you can create a Facebook group for this (Or use MeetUp!). Members are invited and membership needs to be approved by an administrator of the group. We were on the right track, but realized that we needed a public page. Groups are more private and there isn’t one alias that each member could write under. In other words, everyone posted as an individual, and we had no ability for PEACH to send out a message under the PEACH name. We learned about Facebook pages and decided to keep PEACH World closed for PEACH members only.
In 2010, we finally created what we needed, our Sexual Health PEACH Facebook page open to be viewed by the public. Facebook Pages enable public figures, businesses, organizations and other entities to create an authentic and public presence on Facebook. Unlike your profile, Facebook Pages are visible to everyone on the internet by default. You, and every person on Facebook, can connect with these Pages by becoming a fan and then receive their updates in your News Feed and interact with them. They do not have a limit on the number of fans who can join, unlike groups where those interested need approval first. On the page, we have links to our YouTube videos, infographics, event and workshop information, weekly tips, and articles of interest.
It may have taken us two years to launch, but we did it! We knew that simple “like” would not keep interest of our followers, so we assigned someone to create weekly tips/facts for our page throughout the school year. By doing this, we hoped to plant a subconscious seed in our followers minds, so as not to forget who we were and what we have to offer on campus. Now, this sounds strikingly familiar to case study done by HealthDay, in which condom use was boosted amongst those who followed a Facebook page. In a 6 month follow up, it turns out there was no difference in condom usage between the control and intervention groups. It makes me wonder if this has to do with the type of interaction the users experienced. PEACH’s online presence is just one route of communication that we offer. Keeping people engaged with two-way interaction is key and having a good team to facilitate online activity definitely helps with successful implementation of health promotion in social media.
I hope this helps anyone who is attempting to start a Facebook page for an organization. The group I was in didn’t do our homework and had to learn the hard way!
UPDATE: To be fair, I did some sleuthing and learned that Facebook pages didn’t launch until 2009, so we were only slightly behind on our resources.
HealthDay, US News.com. (2012). “Social Media Could Boost Condom Use, Study Suggests.”
Maeve Duggan, et. al. Pew Research Center, January 2015, “Social Media Update 2014“