Integrated Social Media Strategy

State: MI Type: Neither Year: 2015

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Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) serves over 1.2 million residents in Oakland County, Michigan, located north of Detroit. The population is 51.5% male and 48.5% female residents. The county is predominately Caucasian (79.5%), with 14.5% Black or African American, 6.5% Asian, and 3.5% Hispanic or Latino. 26.6% of residents are 55 years and older; 47.7% are 20-54 years of age. As of 2013, 73% of online adults use social networking sites, with over 70% of online adults using Facebook and almost 20% using Twitter. With over 2.8 billion profiles, social media represents approximately half of all internet users worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increasing evidence indicates that the Internet and social media can influence health behavior. Using social media to disseminate public health messages has grown significantly, and continues to trend upward. Social media and other emerging communication technologies can connect millions to: Timely, credible health information and guidance Awareness of  health care services Broader, more diverse audiences Tailored public health messages Interactive communication, connection, and public engagement Feeling empowered to make safer and healthier decisions  The benefits of social media’s influence indicated an opportunity for OCHD to create an integrated social media strategy in an effort to reach community members broadly with public health information. The purpose, goal and current objectives of OCHD’s social media strategy are:  Purpose Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) will use social media to promote its mission, vision, services, events, and general health and wellness information to improve the lives of Oakland County residents. Goal To communicate reliable public health information to Oakland County residents. Objectives (2014-2015) Increase engagement on current social media posts. Increase the amount of connections on social media platforms. Utilize social media promotions and advertising. To meet these objectives, OCHD organized a social media team of 24 public health employees that represent different disciplines. The team works to implement the integrated social media strategy by creating content that is posted daily to the Health Division’s social media sites. They also ensure that messaging advocates, communicates, and educates about diverse public health topics. Team members receive ongoing training on best practices, such as writing effective social media posts and engaging target audiences. The team also helps market OCHD’s social media brand, Public Health Oakland, and reviews evaluation data.  These efforts have successfully engaged Oakland County residents and other state/national followers. As recently as summer 2014, the Health Division began social media expansion efforts to Pinterest and is working to train OCHD leadership regarding the impact LinkedIn can have for resource sharing and collaboration. Within a year of launching, OCHD had 682 Facebook likes (the number of unique people following our page). Today, over 900 people have liked the page with a weekly reach of almost 3,000 and a highest reach of 5,109. Reach is defined as the number of unique users who have seen a post. OCHD’s Twitter page has over 500 followers currently. In the first eight months, the page had well over 100 mentions and almost 200 retweets and favorites. The Public Health Oakland Twitter page has garnered state and national level followers such as CDC physicians and departments, National Public Health Week, KidsHealth.Org, and faculty from Harvard Medical School.  Social media has also allowed OCHD to reach the public directly during public health emergencies. During a recent flood emergency in Metro Detroit, the OCHD Facebook gained over 100 new followers and reached more than 1,500 unique users on a single post. Multiple media outlets have developed news stories from OCHD’s social media postings, thus strengthening the relationship between the media and public health. OCHD integrated social media strategy has also served as a quality model across other local health departments in Michigan and for other departments within Oakland County. OCHD staff has presented their social media model to other local health departments, at statewide conferences and to Michigan Association of Local Public Health representatives.  OCHD also received a 2014 National Association of Counties Achievement Award for the entire social media strategy. Comprehensive social media activities meet the goal of communicating reliable public health information to Oakland County residents. The factors that led to the success included regularly posting engaging content, interacting with followers, being active on each platform daily, and providing a variety of public health information in a timely manner. OCHD strives to use social media as a health communication strategy to improve health outcomes and health literacy.
As of 2013, 73% of online adults use social networking sites, with over 70% of online adults using Facebook and almost 20% using Twitter. With over 2.8 billion profiles, social media users represent approximately half of all internet users worldwide. Despite evidence indicating that social media can influence health behavior, OCHD did not maintain any social media profiles prior to late 2012. Initial site management efforts were labor intensive, involved minimal staff that were not experts in diverse public health topics, and lacked vast and interactive public health messaging. OCHD recognized the utmost importance of using a coordinated, multi-faceted approach to communicate disease prevention, health promotion, and risk communication messages, specifically one that connected followers to the local health department as a top source for timely, credible, and local health information. A strategic social media strategy was created and OCHD’s social media brand, Public Health Oakland, was developed. OCHD’s Public Health Oakland Facebook site currently reaches on average over 3,000 unique users weekly, with a total of 156,000 users per year, which is 13% of Oakland County’s 1.2 million population (includes a small number of out-of-county followers). 77% of Public Health Oakland Facebook users are women, and 22% are men. 47% of total users are between the ages of 25-44, 24% age 55-65+, and approximately 8% 13-24 years of age. OCHD’s Twitter page has over 500 followers (demographic data not currently available). Prior to 2012, OCHD implemented health communications primarily through written educational materials, press releases, presentations, its website and occasional advertising campaigns. Many times these efforts did not reach expansive audiences. Public health presence on social media has allowed the Health Division to communicate with residents quickly, efficiently, and in a population-based manner. Developing and sustaining a synchronized strategy to execute social media activities is now a best practice for OCHD’s overall strategic communications goals. This comprehensive planning approach has allowed OCHD to increase the quantity and quality of messaging delivered. Content now aligns with National Health Observance timelines and campaigns, hot topics of local interest, and connects the public to reputable resources for more information. Promotion of OCHD programs and services has broadened to represent multiple public health disciplines. Most importantly, the social media strategy has allowed OCHD to better understand audiences and the type of health information the community seeks through regular and reoccurring monitoring and evaluation. OCHD’s social media initiative is an innovative strategy that demonstrates a creative use of existing best practices for public health agencies utilizing social media platforms. Integration of a multi-disciplinary social media infrastructure diversifies impactful public health messaging, builds staff competencies, and sustains best practices outlined in a variety of tools found in NACCHO’s Toolbox including: CDC Health Communicator’s Toolkit (2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Using Social Media Platforms to Amplify Public Health Messaging (2010 Ogilvy Washington & The Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University). The current practice is not evidence-based; however, activities implemented replicate models, guidelines and best practices recommended by reputable public health and social marketing entities. Social media content published also addresses up-to-date health information about CDC’s Winnable Battles including: food safety, immunizations, HIV, motor vehicle injuries, nutrition, physical activity, sexually transmitted infections, tobacco, healthy pregnancies and more.
The goal and current objectives of OCHD’s integrated social media strategy include: Goal To communicate reliable public health information to Oakland County residents. Objectives (2014-2015) Increase engagement on current social media posts. Increase the amount of connections on social media platforms. Utilize social media promotions and advertising. In an effort to achieve this goal, OCHD leadership tasked OCHD’s Web Advisory Committee (WAC), which oversees the agency’s internal and external websites, to create a social media plan, guidelines, and implementation schedule. The first effort in implementing this plan was creating the Public Health Social Media Team, which initially consisted of 18 staff members including health educators, nurses, sanitarians, substance abuse professionals, and dietitians. Team members were selected based upon their ability to represent the Health Division’s numerous program areas and their expertise within their field of practice. For example, the environmental health unit team member creates messages about radon, safe food preparation, and West Nile Virus prevention.  Team members are charged with fielding ideas and potential messaging from peers within their units that can be utilized in developing social media content. In addition, social media team members are paired with a health educator who has expertise in a specific topic area to assist in developing messages. Two lead health educators are assigned to share the responsibility of coordinating Social Media Team activities, facilitating the agency’s social media process, editing content developed by team members, and serving as moderators who monitor sites and deploy content.   These staff are actively engaged in launching additional timely information such as news releases or emerging updates about local health topics of interest. Moderators reply to comments or messages within 24 hours and routinely connect with followers and partners, increasing engagement and participation.  All team members are provided ongoing training from the lead health educators about writing social media messages, best practices in regard to what types of messages are effective or ineffective, and orientation to constantly emerging social media platforms. In addition, the health educators liaison with Oakland County’s eGovernment staff who oversee the overarching guidelines for all electronic communications stemming from Oakland County. Team leads attend webinars and trainings related to social media to ensure the OCHD’s social media plan and team continually evolve in the ever changing social media environment.  Each team member/health educator pair was initially assigned to develop 30 initial Facebook posts in their content area by following the CDC’s Guide to Writing for Social Media, Health Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit, and knowledge gained from training. This content was used to launch the social media sites with general public health information. As lessons learned are reviewed and the process has evolved, each team member is now asked to submit five posts per month using a Social Media Post Form. These subsequent five monthly postings allow for more specific information, such as health observances, local events, and promotion of OCHD programs and services. Use of the form allows team members to submit content, links, and images, and also includes references and resources for review. Additional status updates, such as postings for special events or emerging topics, can also be submitted at any time. All edited messages are placed in a monthly calendar by the lead health educators and are reviewed by the Health Education Supervisor and Health Promotion Administrator for accuracy, readability and approval. The Social Media team meets quarterly to discuss social media planning as a multi-disciplinary team. Posts are reviewed to ensure submitted content aligns with the purpose and goal of the OCHD social media plan. Meetings also include professional development training and discussions about ways to increase engagement, promoting the Public Health Oakland brand, and personal use of social media.  Marketing of the Public Health Oakland social media brand occurs by creating and following strategic marketing plans. OCHD utilizes GovDelivery, a web-based email list serve and subscription site, to notify more than 35,000 residents about OCHD’s social media sites. Reference to social media profiles is included in all agency media releases, advertisements, flyers, email signatures, and publicly disseminated materials through graphic display of social media logos on these materials. External technology systems such as HootSuite are used to schedule and post content. HootSuite is a social media management system to help post across multiple social networks simultaneously from one secure, web-based dashboard. HootSuite also provides custom evaluation reports using comprehensive analytics tools for measurement. To further evaluate social media efforts, other systems such as Facebook Insights are utilized to track interaction on the Public Health Oakland Facebook page. Planning for the launch of OCHD’s Public Health Oakland Facebook site began in the spring of 2012 and the page was launched on August 20, 2012. The Social Media Messaging Team was created in Fall 2012 and new membership continues to evolve. The Public Health Oakland Twitter was launched on April 1, 2013, during National Public Health Week. The Public Health Oakland Pinterest site was created in the summer of 2014 and will be launched in January 2015. Stakeholder involvement is essential to effective implementation of the social media strategy. Active participation from all members of the Social Media Messaging Team and assistance from lead health education staff has been crucial.  Administrative support from the Health Officer and unit administrators has allowed social media team members to spend work time preparing content, attending quarterly meetings and receive training. Oakland County’s eGovernment team provided technical assistance to lead staff to ensure that best practices were adhered to. News media and community partners have also proven to be significant stakeholders. By connecting to social media profiles of news entities and specific reporters, OCHD has fostered new relationships that have resulted in a number of TV and newspaper stories that stem from OCHD social media postings. Posting on social media is proving to catch media attention more readily than press releases.  Community partners have directed clients to OCHD social media sites to receive up-to-date health information. Program funding was made possible by leveraged in-kind support from Oakland County Health Division for staff time and computer usage. The total costs of averages $28,822 in-kind support.   Program Costs:                                                                                                   $28,822 IN-KIND TOTAL Staff Lead (Health Educator III)                  30 hours / month            $9,875 / yearStaff Lead (Health Educator II)                   30 hours / month            $7,774 / yearStaff Support (Health Educator I)                4 hours / month              $948 / year20 Unit Point People                                   2 hours / month             $9,600 / yearTeam Lead computer costs                         20 hours / month           $625 / year
Within a year of launching, OCHD had 682 Facebook likes (the number of unique people following our page). Today, over 900 people have liked the page with a weekly reach of almost 3,000 and a highest reach of 5,109. Reach is defined as the number of unique users who have seen a post. OCHD is consistently reaching over 50% of their Facebook fans (people who like the Public Health Oakland Facebook page) including fans in the United Kingdom, India, Australia, and Germany. OCHD’s Twitter page has over 500 followers currently. In the first eight months, the page had well over 100 mentions and almost 200 retweets and favorites. The Public Health Oakland Twitter page has garnered state and national level followers such as CDC physicians and departments, National Public Health Week, KidsHealth.Org, and faculty from the Harvard Medical School.  Data from both social media platforms indicate that people are liking, sharing, retweeting, and commenting on the OCHD Facebook and Twitter pages. This is credited to the multi-disciplinary approach taken by the team and the goal to cover multiple aspects of public health. OCHD’s social media platforms are evaluated on a quarterly basis using primary source data directly from social media analytic systems including HootSuite and Facebook Insights.  HootSuite provides custom evaluation reports using comprehensive analytics tools for measurement. Facebook Insights tracks the number of active users to better understand page performance. It helps determine the best day and time to post and highlights popular content.  Scheduling of content and subject matter is continuously adjusted based on performance results. System data is constantly updated to reflect site developments and any new patterns. Performance and outcome measures routinely reviewed include:  Reach (post level and page level) Engagement (likes, comments, sharing, retweets, mentions) User demographics Process evaluation factors are reviewed among the social media team, and suggestions for improvements in training, technical assistance and submission processes are frequently discussed and adhered to. As part of ongoing outcome and process evaluations, OCHD continues to adapt an integrated social media strategy aimed at achieving the following goals and objectives: Goal To communicate reliable public health information to Oakland County residents. Objectives (2014-2015) Increase engagement on current social media posts. Increase the amount of connections on social media platforms. Utilize social media promotions and advertising.
Through process evaluation, multiple lessons have been learned including: It is labor intensive to have a single staff member manage an effective social media strategy. The benefit of having a multi-disciplinary team implement OCHD’s social media plan has allowed coverage of a broad variety of public health topics and has improved accuracy as team members create content based on their expertise. Social media is a critical asset during public health emergencies. It allows immediate messaging to reach Oakland County’s populations. Team structure will continue to evolve to meet new needs. Additional members with vast expertise have been added to the team as OCHD’s social media platforms expand to cover additional topics, services, and focus. Social media is ever-changing and continual training is required to stay up-to-date. Dedication of lead staff allows all individuals involved in agency social media activities to keep up with trends and share knowledge learned. Social media facilitates two-way communication between residents and the Health Division.  Residents message questions or comments via social media sites that allow public health officials to respond publicly in a timely manner. Social media can be used to foster partnerships with media, hospitals, schools, and community agencies. Partners (internal/external) that contribute content to social media sites may need extensive training to ensure quality of messaging. With full administrative support and significant staff involvement, there is continued commitment to sustain and expand existing social media practices. Health Division Administration continues to dedicate two full-time staff that each spend approximately 25% of their work time to manage this comprehensive initiative. As social media team members are reassigned, administration takes an active role to make sure that they are replaced in a timely manner.  Furthermore, marketing of OCHD social media sites has become a required communications standard for the agency.  Social media logos must be placed on all materials disseminated internally and externally including print materials, advertising, list serve communications, electronic staff signatures, etc. While a cost/benefit analysis has not occurred, OCHD proves a sustainable model for public health social media strategies.  Comprehensive social media activities provide reliable public health information to residents to help improve health outcomes.
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