Training Aims to Ignite DPH Social Media

September 3, 2013

Originially published Feb. 13, 2012

On January 25, close to 20 employees of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) attended a full-day training course on social media geared toward enhancing DPH's reach through social media.

Participants learned the importance of writing concise posts, comments and Tweet to attract readers in and be viewed as a helpful resource. People who have "liked" DPH's Facebook page or "follow" on Twitter have already shown their investment in the Department by doing so; therefore, it is more about sharing helpful information and encouraging them to respond and share information with their "friends" and "followers." 
"For our breastfeeding program awareness and education, we need to reach out to this generation of young mothers," explained Marcia Hunter, State Breastfeeding Coordinator and social media training participant. "Using social media is the way we can reach them and interact with them about our messages."

Participants also learned that social media is not just a matter of posting information or sending out messages encouraging flu shots. Social media allows DPH to connect and interact with the people of Georgia.  "As a new, stand-alone department, it is important for DPH to first make people aware of everything the Department does," said Ryan Deal, Director, Division of Communications, DPH. "And that strategy is working."  In the past two months, DPH's "Likes" on Facebook have increased 22 percent and "followers" on Twitter have increased 24 percent.
DPH also uses social media for connecting with the Georgia Public Health Districts. DPH and the Districts share information, promote events and retweet messages to followers as a way to share what is going on in Public Health at both the state and district levels.

Data show that Americans are using social media in larger numbers than before. In 2011, 65 percent of adults who spent time online used a social networking site, according to a survey of 2,277 adults by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. Public Health can harness the power of social media to reach people in Georgia to spread awareness of DPH, educate people about programs and health topics and alert people in times of emergencies. 
Many in Public Health agree about the power and reach of social media.  Social media gives Public Health immediate access and widespread reach for disseminating messages to people of Georgia, and Public health is using that reach in different ways.

Northwest Georgia Public Health's social media strategy calls for using the popular, interactive, Web-based and mobile personal-communications tools only for declared Public Health emergencies.  "Our district and each of our county health departments have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, but we're conditioning our 'likes' and followers to understand we'll be using these channels, including YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google +,  to communicate with them only when there's an urgent need for action,"  said Health Services Program Manager Lisa Greeby.

 "We want folks to know when they receive a message from Northwest Georgia Public Health or one of our county health departments, say, Dade County Public Health, via social media, it's something requiring an urgent need for action, something to do with their or their loved ones' immediate health or safety, not just another message promoting flu shots or healthy living," explains Northwest Georgia Public Health's PIO/Risk Communicator Logan Boss.

A popular example of using social media for emergency preparedness is the CDC zombie apocalypse campaign, which, for $87 of stock photography and a hefty dose of creativity reached a young, media-savvy demographic that the CDC had not been able to capture before.

"That is exactly what is exciting about using social media for public health purposes," said Deal. 

"There is a large population of active users who use social media to seek out information and share that information with friends, family and like-minded individuals. It is the perfect vehicle for disseminating messages on prevention, awareness and preparedness and for interacting with the people of Georgia."

Follow DPH on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

About the Author