CDC’s Zombie Apocalypse Social Media Launch Goes Viral

September 3, 2013

Originally published July 25, 2011

When CDC launched Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse on May16, the agency had invested only $87.00 in stock photography to purchase photos. The CDC Emergency Web and Social Media Team and Office of Communication in CDC's Public Health Preparedness and Response office had no idea that within three days it would set new records on Twitter with Social Media Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. 

PHWEEK interviewed Catherine Jamal, who leads the Emergency and Web and Social Media Team to discuss this social media phenomenon. Jamal discussed the impact CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog is having around the world. “On May 19, 'CDC' and 'Zombie Apocalypse' trended on Twitter,” according to Jamal. “We were among the top ten worldwide trends on Twitter which is very difficult to achieve.” To date, there have been over 3.6 billion impressions (similar to page views.) CDC’s Emergency Preparedness website has also experienced a tremendous 2000 percent increase in page views on the CDC and general emergency preparedness webpages. 

Last week, PHWEEK reported to you the launch of DPH’s Social Media on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This new undertaking will allow DPH to deliver health and emergency messages anywhere in Georgia and in the world within seconds. More county and local health departments are beginning to establish social media accounts to get messages to the general public. 

According to Jamal, one blogger wrote “It’s great to see my government (CDC) has a sense of humor." This shows that people understood our real message and the tongue-in-cheek approach. Some Twitter followers and Facebook fans of CDC Emergency even told us about their own emergency plans. They were talking to each other about how to plan for an emergency.” 

The Zombie Apocalypse campaign targeted the 18 to 35 year old market of those persons interested in social media and zombies. The goal was to catch their attention, prepare them for emergencies, and to give them the tools to make an emergency plan and kit. “We accomplished more than we set out to do.” 

CDC bloggers wrote: 

May 18, 2011 at 6:10 am ET - Leigh Anne

Fantastic! Granted, zombies may be unlikely, but some viral rabies-like disease that causes similar symptoms is not all that far-fetched. I’ve been needing to get an emergency supply closet started. Maybe I’ll start adding an item or two on my grocery list every week. Thank you, CDC for a list to get started with. 

May 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm ET - DrSpEd

As a doctor, I applaud the CDC’s recognition of the potential danger a Zombie Apocalypse presents. This is a great first step in the development of a National Emergency Response Plan and I encourage the CDC to continue to develop and refine a comprehensive Zombie Apocalypse Response Plan! Good work & Keep up the fight! 

May 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm ET - Donovan Young

I might suggest adding a baseball bat, preferably aluminum, to your emergency kit as well. It doesn’t require ammunition and can be highly effective at clearing a path through hordes of zombies whilst trying to make good your escape.

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