5 Key Principles for Social Media Use for Your Health Organization


Congratulations, Social Media Experts! If you’re reading this….you’re also ready to hear about the finale. But before you take your victory lap, let’s go over some important things to always keep in mind when promoting your health organization through these awesome platforms.

For those of you who have not been keeping up but also those who have, you’ll need a handful of *KEY* concepts to use while creating your social media regarding your non-profit health organizations!

 Target your Audience

This may seem like we’re beating a dead horse here, but it’s only because its extremely crucial to know your audience and exactly who you’re directing all your hard work towards. Knowing your audience will guarantee your work is not going unnoticed. You don’t want to create amazing content to have it float into the cyber-world abyss. Not only would this be borderline waste of time and effort, but if it is pulled up by other big organizations or potential clients, employees, helpers or big time organizations that might offer a helping hand and they all see how little attention the content has gotten, it will not make your organization look very credible…or successful. We want all eyes on your organization, but first you have to decide which eyes you want to catch.

This will essentially depend on your organizations background. In other words, which health issue does your organization focus on?

  1. If the focus is something as broad or persistent among all ages, genders, nationalities etc., your audience can and should be limitless. This just means you will have to keep in mind that with that being known, your messages need to be attractive to just about everyone. This would be issues such as diabetes, anxiety, depression, etc.
  2.  ..In regards to attractiveness (you already know you need your content to be attractive to the eye) it should to be eye-catching for younger generations but not too flashy that will turn off older ones. Keep color combinations and themes unisex so that you aren’t making gender-conscious audiences feel that your message doesn’t pertain to them.
  3. If your organization focuses on health effects such as blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease etc., it is safe to assume your target audience will consist mostly of middle-age to elderly audiences. This will mean refraining from complicated media or any kind of confusing slang.
  4. If the health issue is more personal(i.e STD’s, HIV, promoting safe sex)  you will want to consider the culture/environment in order to properly target your audience. These can mostly likely be people on college campuses, places perhaps not very close to any nearby hospitals or even younger audiences you’ll most likely reach solely on social media.


 Stand Out on Social Media

This may sound like an oxy-moron here but bare with me. Since there are thousands of media messages social media users see during their time spent online (USA Today calculated that as of 2014, the average American see’s roughly over 4,000 messages per-day) you’ll want yours to not get lost in the mix. This will require some serious creativity.

Not the creative type? I don’t believe that. Try not to think of creativity as a skill but rather a way or having fun with a project. Think of it like this: I can almost guarantee the easiest and best part of ever making a presentation in your life was decorating a power point. In a sense the content your organization is making is a presentation of your organizations message and goals. So think of this as the fun part and have FUN with it! So what does creativity entail? Try some of these to spruce up your content:

  • Slogans – A play on words, rhymes, catchy phrases. This is an ideal opportunity to showcase your goals and objectives. Typically I would not recommend a lot of wording but if you can make it short and concise, see what your organization can come up with. Check out this example:
Image from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

This slogan was tweeted using #Brain4Research as well as a post on Instagram through the  Brain and Behavior Research Foundation promoting Mental Health Awareness Month. Notice how they put the Know Science, which references the complexities behind mental illnesses that require scientific research, on top of No Stigma. Stigma being what they want to fight against. The organization is both promoting a cause while also referencing what they want audiences to stop.

  • Always use pictures, but don’t forget about videos! According to Hubspot, seeing the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19%, click-through rates by 65% and reduces unsubscribes by 26%. Think Periscope.
  • Colorful content makes things eye-catching . Researchers have found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%
  • Incorporate your organizations name into your content. Better yet, try fitting it in the actual slogan/header. Not only will they remember the name better but it’ll brand your health organization.

 Spark Connections  Track Them

Connecting with viewers and having them connect with one another gives your organization more personality. Remember that for the most part, the closest you’ll get to your audience through social media is a phone or computer screen. Make that distance as personal as possible. As I have mentioned before, consider doing this a form of returning a favor or showing appreciation for your followers . It can also serve as an invitation for others to join your team.

“So what actually matters in social media? What matters is everything that happens after you post / participate.”

-Avinash Kaushik, Director of Research & Analytics at Intuit, Web Analytics


You also want your content to spark engagement. This means creating conversations, having information/content from your organization be spread/shared, and having content gain favorites/likes. Remember through gaining these, you will eventually want to calculate these to see where connection is lacking and where it is benefiting. Your organization can do this by using these terms to measure these on either Google+, Twitter Analytics and Topsy.  Here are the terms you’ll need to know when calculating these:

  • Conversation Rate = # of Audience Comments (or Replies) Per Post
  • Amplification Rate= # of Audience shares, Retweets, Clicks
  • Applause Rate = # of favorite clicks (Twitter) ; # of Likes (Facebook)

Some fun ways of connecting with you audience would be sharing videos of behind the scenes action going on within your organization or things taking audiences on a tour of a doctors office, showing a day in the life of a physician or any worker that gets to see first hand what happens within your organization and have them live-post their routines. Also check out this article from Forbes on response policies.

2016-05-04 21_33_53-WHO (@WHO) _ Twitter
This example from World Health Organizations Twitter page shows followers what is going on in a different part of the World by showing their progress and call to action situation

Also, ask your audience to share their experiences with your organization! This can be beneficial to your organization by showing that followers actually felt inclined to share their experience which in turn goes to show how involved and in touch you are with your audience members.

 Timing is Everything

Knowing when to post for your organization is critical. Remember, we don’t want hard work getting lost in the cyber abyss.  There is some rhyme and reason to when people are looking through social media but the only thing we need to know is when these times are so that your organization can catch people who are clocked in online.  Check this chart out to figure out the best times to post on which sites :

Image from http://www.onwindows.com


Another aspect to consider in regards to timing is how many times your organization posts. While it is ideal to post multiple times a day, it can turn audience members off if your organization is clogging their feed with constant tweets. Think consistent. Not Constant. Check this frequency guide for more on how often your organization should be posting on each Social Media page, and Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation’s Twitter and note they try to only post from noon- 4 P.M and keep it to three tweets a day.

Be Ethical

In one of my most recent blogs, I heavily emphasized the importance of being sensible through social media. Your organization needs to be considerate of how sensitive audiences seeking health information can be and how personal the internet has become. This fascinating article goes more in depth about the health effects caused by social media. Even though social media has helped our organizations tremendously by raising awareness and sparking conversations about health concerns, there are actually concerns stemming from it.

Social media has proven to be one of the heaviest influences on how users see themselves in comparison to what is seen on social media, what is getting attention and what is being encouraged. Body image is especially in danger when it comes to heavy use of social media. Peoples pages are covered in #thinspiration and sometimes results in cyber bullying.

Your organization should steer clear of anything that has potential to add to the all the negativity found online. Also avoid stereotyping, offensive language or inappropriate content that may make some audiences feel degraded, targeted, insulted or exposed.

Image from MAC website

Mac is a prime example of ad content that sparked controversy. I decided to use this image more so to show how deep audiences will look into an image that should be seen as artistic and appealing.


Above, note that while some comments kept it positive and appreciated the picture for what it was originally intended for (MAC was advertising their newest lipstick shade at New York Fashion Week), others saw it through a racist approach at stereotyping African Americans. Keep in mind people: race, gender and sex are risky roads to take.

If your organizations pertain to aspects of health that does involve these things, try not to make your organizations content too personal. Domestic abuse, sexual encounters and body shaming are a few things that would fall under this category. Although it may sound odd, keep in mind you’re dealing with a touchy subject if your audience is dealing with a health issue that they wouldn’t necessarily want printed on a T-Shirt. Keep it simple and general. While these issues are serious, the goal is not to scare or offend anyone! If they are wanting help for this they are most likely already in a fragile state of mind.

If your organization is unsure if the content you’re working with is at risk of being unethical, check out these guidelines to prevent your audience from doing any self harm.

That should do it!

By taking these principles near and dear in your expertise, I have faith that your health organizations Social Media pages will be a huge success. Stay tuned for more posts and comment for questions or anything that you’d like to add!


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