Facebook Can Be Daunting for Health Promotion


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.


Image from: http://www.syscomminternational.com/blog/five-reasons-why-creating-a-facebook-page-is-better-than-creating-a-facebook-group/

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


4 thoughts on “Facebook Can Be Daunting for Health Promotion

  1. Wow, thanks for going over the difference between Facebook pages and groups. This was really helpful!! I have to admit I never thought there was a difference between the two of them. It is great hear from your experience and how Facebook can be used to communicate a health intervention.

  2. I liked this post. Perhaps because until this week I had no idea about Facebook pages vs Facebook Groups and how they should be used so it makes me feel less inadequate to hear others have the same problem. I think framing your blog as sharing the story of your personal experience is effective. It makes the tone more personal and less dictatorial. I think many people feel alienation when coming across technical issues and this gets around that neatly and ties into the theme of this blog to educate/encourage health professionals in social media techniques.

    I thought you broke up the larger pieces of text well with your images and they were also appropriate to the content of the blog.

    I took a different interpretation of the data on the HealthDay study. While the 6 month comparisons didn’t show an improvement, the shorter term comparisons did. So it might be a matter of adjusting approaches that can sustain the early change (my opinion) but this might be an opportunity to encourage your readers to continue to explore uses of Facebook for health.

    Perhaps we could include some updated info on the PEACH project – which sounds interesting – where it is now? Or a link to current activities.

    When I ooked into the descriptionsfurther, FB Groups seem much more of a forum where members can interact while FB Pages are more focused on broadcasting of information. These seemed to tie in to the differences in conversational patterns and size from Clay Shirky reading this week. So I wonder are FB Groups generally a smaller audience that FB Pages?

    Good post Jessica.

  3. Dear Jessica,

    Although I have had a Facebook account for many, many years, I didn’t know the difference between Facebook group and Facebook page. Thank you for clarifying that.

    Your post was not only informative, but it was also reflective because every statement you made was from your experience. I think being reflective and willing to share your insight about your experience carries a lot of weight in terms of introducing new ideas/new approaches in doing things. You’ve definitely hit that spot.

    The only suggestion I have is to perhaps include some readings from the week relating to the theme of your post so that you are then combining theories with real-world practice.

    All in all, very good post!

    Clipper Young

  4. Loved your post Jessica! So much rich content interwoven with your very valuable personal narrative. A very effective and insightful way for our readers to recognize themselves in your journey, perhaps just starting or struggling with similar challenges but no solution yet, and be inspired by what you share. Would’ve loved to see an image from the Sexual Health P.E.A.C.H. page:-) Great job!

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