Best Practice #2 for Health Departments' Social Media Strategy: Define Your Target Audience

Oct 23, 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 #2: Define Your Target Audience & Identify which Social Media Sites They Use

Question: Which social media sites should PHDs use?

The wrong answer: All of them, because they are all free.

The correct answer: The ones that your target audience uses most frequently and passionately.

First and foremost, this means PHDs need to define their target audience and then conduct research to learn which sites their audience uses. For example, a PHD can establish a strong social presence on Twitter by posting relevant and engaging content multiple times each day, but if their target audience is spending most of their time on Facebook, a Twitter presence is irrelevant.  

Social media expert and founder of MediaLeaders, Josh Ochs, suggests three customer-focused steps to identifying which social media channels to use in his soon-to-be released book Light, Bright and Polite:

  1. Know who your customer is (and who your customer is not)
  2. Identify how you can help your customers, and put their needs before your own
  3. Discover how your customer wants to be communicated with – this is the best way to get inside the conversation already going on in their head

Part of the reason different audiences gravitate to different social media sites is the variance in capabilities among sites. In general, Twitter is great for quick communication, YouTube is a premier video site, and Facebook is best for pictures, personal posts and community conversation. Different target audiences may respond more or less strongly to different approaches, so understanding the capabilities of each site lets PHDs choose sites that will allow them to develop the ideal approach for their campaign.

This approach also transfers to the corporate sector.’s Matthew Smith explains, “Each social platform provides unique opportunities to connect with customers…and we differentiate the use of each, as well as the content produced for (each) respective community, while ensuring they all complement one other. We view Facebook as the platform that best keeps us in touch with the “pulse” of our customer base. It allows our team to gain vital customer feedback on industry news, products and services. Twitter is a bit different, as it lends itself more to an open dialogue. It’s a great place to listen to the masses and connect with those on and off our communities. YouTube, on the other hand, is a place to broadcast extremely rich content. We use it to dive deep into products, creating how-to videos and reviews. It’s an ideal platform to push information.”

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