When people look for health information, they consult mainstream media, search the web, and increasingly rely on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, TikTok and other social media. This is not just true for millennials and Gen Zers. An estimated 81% of Americans have a social media account, and nearly 90% of older adults at least occasionally use social media to seek and share health information.
According to Pew Research, Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used social media platforms among U.S adults. 70% of Americans reported using YouTube at least once and 66% have used Facebook. Other platforms are more popular among particular groups. For example, Snapchat and Tik Tok are almost exclusively used by millennials and Gen Zers, whereas WhatsApp and Instagram have a higher percentage of Hispanic and Black users than White users. Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular among business professionals, college grads and higher earners.
Social media is a powerful tool that health departments, governments, and other businesses can use to share vital COVID-19 prevention and testing information. In addition to being a free and fun way to promote your information, all platforms are a two-way-street allowing you to connect directly with your audiences, partners, and influencers.
Here are some simple steps to get started with social media.
Choose the right social media platform
When planning a communications campaign, think about who needs to hear your messages on COVID-19 testing and which social media platforms they use. If you’re not sure, start by reviewing Campaign Like A Pro and 10 COVID-19 Communications Best Practices. Or simply start with the social media platforms for which you already have an account.
Create new accounts or get reacquainted with your existing ones
Social media accounts should be created for your organization or campaign initiative—do not use your personal accounts. Here are some helpful links to get you started:
Create a posting calendar and content strategy that’s tailored to your audiences and their unique needs
When making a social media plan, think about how much you can reasonably post to maintain consistency. Make a schedule and try your best to stick to it. That way, followers know when to expect to hear from you, and you know when posts need to go out. Posting on a set schedule can help pages stay relevant, too. Post too much and you risk information overload or people tuning you out. Post too little and followers might get confused, or think that the page or profile is no longer active, so they “unfollow” it.
Plan to post regularly—we suggest every 1 to 3 days for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and once or twice per week for Tik Tok and Snapchat.
Create a social media content strategy to guide what posts you create and share when, with whom, and on what platforms. You should also create a digital posting calendar to keep everything organized.
When preparing to write posts, determine how much original “source” material you have versus what you can share or repost from partners or other reputable sources. Your content strategy should reflect the type of information you are able to realistically create. We like this 50-30-20 approach for beginners:
50% of Posts are Original: Create posts and share your organization’s “owned” information like web content, webinars, press conferences, live streams, reports, infographics, images, videos, and alerts.
30% of Posts are Reshared: Share or retweet content from other organizations and partner accounts and tag them so they know you gave them a shout out. (Also see: How to approach community partners about joining your campaign.)
20% of Posts are User-Focused: User-generated content is where you ask your social media followers to share a photo or video, answer a question, or share their thoughts on a given topic. These posts use a common hashtag so you can easily see all of the posts in one place. More advanced users can create Instagram, Tik Tok, or Snapchat challenges where people photograph or film themselves as part of a themed challenge or contest.
Tips for Creating Posts
Another aspect of a content strategy speaks to what topics you’ll address in your posts. While this toolkit provides creative assets on all aspects of COVID-19 testing, it’s important to identify what messages your audiences need to hear about testing—whether it’s testing logistics, addressing concerns or fears, or reminding and motivating them to take action. For help identifying your audiences and their unique communications needs, check out these tips on Campaigning Like a Pro. Or if you just need to brush up on writing basics, see our tips and tricks.
Build up your followers by inviting people to like your page and follow your account
Because social media is a two way street, reserve some time each week to build up your followers. Encouraging others to follow your page or account works a little differently depending on the social media platform you’re using. Here are the basics:
Facebook: Invite anyone who’s liked or commented on your posts in the past few months to follow your page. To do this, click on the number of likes on a post to see who liked it. You can then invite them to like the page. Get in the habit of doing this weekly so people are more likely to accept your invitation.
Instagram: You can follow organizations and hope they follow you back. If the account or organization particularly aligns with your own content, you could comment something along the lines of “Love your content, give us a follow” on one of their posts. Or, send them a DM (Direct Message) introducing your organization, explain that you just followed them, and that you’d appreciate it if they’d do the same. This is also true for Twitter.
Twitter: For Twitter, you should “follow” the legitimate profiles that like, retweet, or follow your account. They may return the favor. Avoid any that appear to be spam or sales-oriented accounts.
Snapchat: When you create an account on Snapchat, your account will have a personalized URL and QR “snapcode”. To build followers, drop the snapcode in email newsletters or post it on other social media accounts. You can also run a Facebook ad with the code, optimized to engagement. Within the Snapchat app itself, you can sponsor a Snap Ad, a lens or a geofilter to promote your platform. Lenses and geofilters facilitate user engagement with your profile.
TikTok: The algorithm for TikTok’s “For You” page produces a feed with videos tailored to the users’ perceived interests based on the content they interact with. Engage with your target audience’s posts and create content with hashtags that would align their interests, and hopefully you will appear on their feed. Like Instagram and Twitter, you can also follow profiles that you choose and comment or DM the organization requesting a follow.
YouTube: Subscribe to accounts that align with your organization’s mission. They can then choose to follow you back. Another possibility to build a following is to remind viewers to like, comment, and subscribe to your videos either at the end of a video itself or in the video description boxes.
Follow or like pages with a similar mission or shared values (and ask that they like you back)
In addition to connecting with the public, social media is a great way to connect with partner organizations and businesses in your community. Set aside time to look up other public health, social service and community-based organizations, advocacy and support groups, and government accounts and like their pages, and if possible, invite them to like or follow you back (see #5 for specifics). You can also follow and invite businesses that serve different segments of your target audience.
Find organizations with similar missions and customers and like their page and invite them to like your page in return (Facebook only).
Send an email to partners announcing your pages or accounts and ask them to follow you and share from your account.
Add your social media account links to your website, email signature, and website footer.
Get in the habit of retweeting, sharing, liking, and commenting on partner pages and hope they do the same in return.
An important note about TikTok: TikTok has a unique algorithmic based “for you” page that is based on patterns in the videos you have watched, liked, commented or even viewed. Engaging with content similar to yours will make it more likely to show up on your feed, and vice versa. Take note of content that has gone viral and shares the same goals as yours, and use similar hashtags, sounds and trends.
Tips for Using Tags and Hashtags (OCreative)
How to Write a Social Media Policy (Facebook)
Your Guide to Creating a Social Media Policy (Sprout Social)
Examples of Social Media Policies (Everyone Social)