Best Practice #1 for Health Departments' Social Media Strategy: Promote a Conversation

Oct 22, 2012 11:00 AM ET

Overview: Social media accounts are now what email accounts were in 1997: simultaneously ubiquitous and cool, providing free channels of communication to virtually everyone with access to the internet. With budgets shrinking, the public sector has turned to social media in the hopes of achieving important communication goals with less money. Incite studied public health departments (PHDs) across the nation to understand the time and resources they invest in social media platforms and compiled five social media strategy best practices for public health departments to consider and adopt


Best Practice #1: Promote a Conversation

The most important practice is to start a conversation. Conversations are what differentiate social media from all other forms of communication. Everything else, whether it be television ads, radio commercials or print materials, flows from the conversations that PHDs should start and promote on social media.

The best practices that follow are really ways to ensure that the conversation keeps going and is productive. Along with the other four best practices, conversations will directly lead to the desired behavior change at the root of a social media campaign. We like the phrasing of Bev Macy and Teri Thompson, authors of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing, who define social media as a “Cult of Conversation” that follows the 3 C’s: conversation, connection, and then community.

For PHDs used to delivering the “official” view on a health topic, engaging in conversation may be an unnatural shift in strategy and thinking. In reality, PHDs are uniquely positioned to engage in important and meaningful conversations. As the trusted and credible resource for information, a PHD can be the “really smart friend” that offers good advice and ideas.

As the Social Media Manager and User Generated Content Lead for online electronic retailer, Matthew Smith manages relationships with the brand’s 34,500 Twitter followers, 80,400 YouTube subscribers and 1,071,000 Facebook “friends” daily. He explains, “In the end, it’s all about our customers’ experience when entering our social sphere. It must be interesting, fun and informative. But in the end, it must be an open dialogue, and we’re always listening and responding. Remember, you’re not just holding an ongoing conversation; you’re always making a first impression.”

One of the easiest ways to foster conversation is to use Twitter. Twitter allows users to re-tweet messages from other users and to tweet “at” them, which are both great for starting or engaging in conversations. The use of direct messages on Twitter can personalize a PHD in a way that is difficult to replicate in any other medium.

To read the rest of this white paper and learn about the other best practices, download your free copy  here.

Matthew Scelza
Incite LA
+1 (818) 238-6646