This week I focused much of my attention on researching the public health presence on Twitter and Instagram, precisely because I was curious to see what was out there. Starting from the perspective of an uninformed member of the public (ie: Googling), what I discovered is that health on Twitter and Instagram primarily seems to mean pictures of colorful healthy meals and recommendations for how to get the perfect beach body year round. This may be an American trend, I’m not sure, but what I can say is that finding the sites for major players in the public health world required targeted searching. Also, health Twitter accounts seem to be much more popular than health-related Instagrams. Notice below, how the WHO has 2.53M followers on Twitter, but only 46,000 followers on Instagram.
The other thing I noticed while reviewing Instagram feeds of assorted health-related entities (from your average home blogger to players like the WHO), was that the popular sites devoted to healthy cooking and fitness tended to have many more followers than the the more diverse health-oriented sites. In comparison to WHO’s 46,000 Instagram followers, Be Fit Foods has 1 million.
This speaks to our perceptions of where to find certain things. Twitter has been accepted as a vehicle for news and information, not just personal musings. However, I do think Instagram could be used more to promote public health. For nonprofits, in particular, Instagram offers a great platform to share images of daily and special activities, as well as images of the target issue as a means to engage the public and find new supporters. Now that many people use some kind of image or video sharing platform, it is critical for public health entities to start promoting themselves in those places as well.
The truth is that most people do not use every type of social media, so we need to offer options, allowing supporters to access our content in whichever way they choose to do so.