Originally published Aug. 22, 2011
The majority of the public health districts have some form of social media account to connect with their citizens, media, and other public health professionals. While many districts are just getting their feet wet in the social media pond, District 4 (LaGrange) has been successful using social media since the beginning of the year. Social media tools were originally set up to communicate with staff members during “Snowpocalypse 2011.” District 4 soon learned that Facebook and Twitter would be pivotal in communicating urgent news and public health awareness.
During the tornados this past spring, District 4 was able to use social media to disseminate contact information for those who wanted to volunteer during disaster relief efforts, coordinate items needed for donations, and provide information on the federal aide application process. Donation centers in Manchester and Barnesville were able to communicate their needs and share resources to help displaced residents all via Facebook.
“Facebook let everyone know exactly what was needed, where it was needed, and how soon it was needed,” said Hayla Hall, District 4 Risk Communicator. “Without the communication we were having via social media, it is possible that some of the requests for help and donations would not have been heard.” Facebook also became a place where people connected and shared condolences with victims and their families.
Hall offers some advice for districts looking to take their social media efforts to the next level. “Don’t be afraid to just do it,” Hall said. District 4 has taken the bold step in opening their Facebook wall for comments from users who “Like” the page.
“By leaving our page open for postings, we are telling the public that we trust them to police themselves and make comments that are appropriate,” Hall added. “If it’s inappropriate, you can delete it.” Hall also encourages districts not to create difficult approval processes for postings. “This should be fun and easy. Remember, people want good quality health information so give that to them,” she said. Hall also recommends using a program such as HootSuite or TweetDeck to help manage and plan your social media postings. “I have my Blackberry set up so that I can access our Facebook and Twitter sites from my phone and can post quickly if I need to,” she concluded.