Tweet for Behavior Change: Using Social Media for the Dissemination of Public Health Messages

Aisling Gough, Ruth F Hunter, Oluwaseun Ajao, Anna Jurek, Gary McKeown, Jun Hong, Eimear Barrett, Marbeth Ferguson, Gerry McElwee, Miriam McCarthy, Frank Kee

Background: Social media public health campaigns have the advantage of tailored messaging at low cost and large reach, but little is known about what would determine their feasibility as tools for inducing attitude and behavior change. Objective: The aim of this study was to test the feasibility of designing, implementing, and evaluating a social media-enabled intervention for skin cancer prevention. Conclusions: Social media-disseminated public health messages reached more than 23% of the Northern Ireland population. A Web-based survey suggested that the campaign might have contributed to improved knowledge and attitudes toward skin cancer among the target population. Findings suggested that shocking and humorous messages generated greatest impressions and engagement, but information-based messages were likely to be shared most. The extent of behavioral change as a result of the campaign remains to be explored, however, the change of attitudes and knowledge is promising. Social media is an inexpensive, effective method for delivering public health messages. However, existing and traditional process evaluation methods may not be suitable for social media.

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