Public health needs more 'friends'

Public health agencies are using social media--but not to its full potential, according to a new study published in BMC Public Health. Agencies are using social media to distribute information rather than capitalizing on the interactivity available to create conversations and engage with the audience, the authors write.

In a review of social media sites, the authors found 60 percent of agencies use at least one social media application. Of these, 87 percent had a Twitter account, 56 percent a Facebook account and 43 percent a YouTube channel.

As proof that the organizations aren't taking advantage of the social aspects of social media, the report notes that they "have few followers or friends." On average, agencies made one post per day on social media sites, and this was primarily to distribute information; there was very little interaction with audiences.

"If public health agencies are to effectively use social media then they must develop a strategic communication plan that incorporates best practices for expanding reach and fostering interactivity and engagement," the authors concluded. Study

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