Health Information on Facebook

facebook-healthThe search for on-line health information is the 3rd most popular use of the internet, with 8 of 10 internet users turning to on-line sources for information.

While Facebook is the largest social media presence on-line with over 500 million active users, research has found that health information on Facebook is not so much sought after, but encountered. Nonetheless it has been shown that health behavior is influenced by these unsolicited encounters and that to optimize health messages on social media, posts should be placed 2 times a day, 4-5 days per week.

There are three important connections that can be made using Facebook to disseminate health information, all of which are important to maximizing the health uses of Facebook

1.) Shared Research and Resources for Health Professionals

A useful way to share ideas with colleagues or with membership of a wider organization is by establishing a Group Facebook Page. Receiving a Facebook notification that there has been a new posting is much less intrusive than cluttering inboxes with email. Postings should include educational events, recent research, or a networking mechanism for those interested in the same issues. The only downside to this is that a contact list would already be needed to invite people to the group. However, multiple people can be made administrators to facilitate adding new people. This gatekeeping would provide a way to ensure it is a place for professionals to communicate.

2.) Health Professionals Communicating with the Public

A Facebook Page that is searchable and visible to the public can be used to share health information for laypeople. The message can be tailored for the audience and the comment section can be used by participants to share stories. Often people answer each others’ questions, but a daily or weekly formal Q & A could be used to clear up any misunderstandings that begin to circulate. Getting people involved in a local organizations, interactive questions, and polls has been found to be the most successful to establish hits on the content.

Example: Womens’ Heart Foundation

 3.) A Informal Community Sharing Stories

Another way that Facebook can be used for health issues is by providing the community that has traditionally been found in support groups. This is usually established by someone who has life experience with a health condition that is looking to connect with others. People need anecdotal information, as well as facts, when exploring a topic because it brings a human component to the science and data. These pages may be monitored by the creator, but are typically more free-flowing.

Example: Multiple Sclerosis Group

Social media is becoming a more popular way to obtain health information, but often not by intention. Nevertheless, health messages can be effectively communicated in this underused medium by appearing even when people are not seeking it out. Like a real-life social situation, fads and norms are created with Facebook and it therefore has the ability to modify individual behavior with its influence. By using Facebook to communicate with other health professionals, the general public, and in the formation of support groups, this form of social media can continue to gain traction as a way of sharing health information.

Source: Woolley P, Peterson M.(2012)Efficacy of a health-related Facebook social network site on health-seeking behaviors. Social Marketing Quarterly, 18: 2939.

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4 thoughts on “Health Information on Facebook

  1. Great use of sources and hyperlinks. I particularly like how you follow up #2 and #3 with example organizations/groups. Your image of the stethoscope and Facebook logo is powerful and makes the reader feel that you really have your finger on the pulse of the topic (so to speak). Lastly, the brief survey included at the end of the blog is great as it encourages readers to be interactive with the material you are presenting. Great post.

  2. The recommended sites are very useful to give your reader a sense of who is doing this well. I think that sometimes people really need to see examples of how it is used before they buy-in that their organization should also try it. I think for number 2 it would be helpful to emphasize that if an organization is going to have a page like this they need to be committed to answering questions and regularly monitoring it. The survey is a nice touch, with one question you actively engaged your reader, so if they did not click on any other links they were at least encouraged to participate in your own research, and it takes it back to them and their experience.

  3. Jenna, I loved how you opened your post with some backstory on why this whole conversation is important. It’s not that I was surprised to learn that “health information…is not so much sought after, but encountered,” but it was interesting and gratifying to learn that this is actually true and researched. I think it points to how passive a lot social media is from the consumer standpoint: people aren’t necessarily looking for information/news/posts/etc., but if they see something that they find interesting, they might click on an article, or check out a profile…

    I think this speaks to how important the headline or tagline for posts is. How important images are.

    Then you followed this information with a great list of instructions with examples- very helpful and informative! I really appreciated that you included both pros and cons in your descriptions, and also that you provided ideas for different target groups. I do agree it’s important to remember that networking is most helpful when the net is cast wide and far: when it includes peers, users, supporters, funders, and more.

  4. You have some useful suggestions for Facebook, which as you point out is harder to find useful health data on actively. This should be useful to someone trying to incorporate Facebook into their social media campaign.

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