It’s a bird, it’s a plane…. it’s a….. TWEET?
I admit that my Twitter experience (very little at best) consisted of mainly scrolling through celebrity feuds (a la the Twitter argument between Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry) and gossip to keep up with the latest Hollywood news. I never considered the 140 character Twitter platform to be utilized so well for public health. Examining a few major public health Twitter accounts, namely UNICEF, CDC, WHO and the CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response, I see now that this is a quick, simple, effective way to deliver a succinct message. There are some main commonalities in how this platform is used as a public health delivery system:
1. Engaging photos: These sites all had color, engaging photos that reflected the goal of their organization. UNICEF and the WHO had photos reflecting public health care in other countries. The CDC showed researchers and healthy families.
2. Minimal use of #hashtags: Unlike many other twitter pages that end every post with 20 different hashtags, these public health pages used hashtags minimally, making them more effective.
1-2 hashtags within the posts that were very relevant and extremely important and noticeable. In these settings, less is more.
3. Links to outside resources with brief synopsis:
These pages all had many links to resources such as studies, relevant news stories, and places to get further, reliable information. This is extremely important since it is tough to communicate all
necessary material in 140 characters. However, in our world that is constantly going “faster and faster,” as is illustrated by Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody,” sending the main idea of a webpage in 140 characters is about what the average reader is looking for these days
4. Multiple posts a day: Much like the concept of the “Blitzkrieg,” these entities can use this mode of communication as the modern-day radio to deliver quick, repetitive blows to eventually overcome a seemingly bigger opponent. A reoccurring theme on these public health pages is to post multiple times a day on a range of topics in different ways (pictures, stories, links). This allows the most people to receive and process the information while scrolling through their Twitterfeed.