Please Like Me: Facebook and Public Health Communication.

Research paper by James J Kite, Bridget C BC Foley, Anne C AC Grunseit, Becky B Freeman

Indexed on: 16 Sep '16Published on: 16 Sep '16Published in: PloS one


Facebook, the most widely used social media platform, has been adopted by public health organisations for health promotion and behaviour change campaigns and activities. However, limited information is available on the most effective and efficient use of Facebook for this purpose. This study sought to identify the features of Facebook posts that are associated with higher user engagement on Australian public health organisations' Facebook pages. We selected 20 eligible pages through a systematic search and coded 360-days of posts for each page. Posts were coded by: post type (e.g., photo, text only etc.), communication technique employed (e.g. testimonial, informative etc.) and use of marketing elements (e.g., branding, use of mascots). A series of negative binomial regressions were used to assess associations between post characteristics and user engagement as measured by the number of likes, shares and comments. Our results showed that video posts attracted the greatest amount of user engagement, although an analysis of a subset of the data suggested this may be a reflection of the Facebook algorithm, which governs what is and is not shown in user newsfeeds and appear to preference videos over other post types. Posts that featured a positive emotional appeal or provided factual information attracted higher levels of user engagement, while conventional marketing elements, such as sponsorships and the use of persons of authority, generally discouraged user engagement, with the exception of posts that included a celebrity or sportsperson. Our results give insight into post content that maximises user engagement and begins to fill the knowledge gap on effective use of Facebook by public health organisations.