As a part of CCC technical assistance efforts, the GW Cancer Center develops social media toolkits for cancer awareness months to help CCC programs, coalitions and other stakeholders strengthen their communication efforts. The toolkits each contain evidence-informed communication strategies, pre-written Tweets and Facebook posts, as well as other social media and cancer awareness-related tools and resources.
For guidance on using social media for health observances, visit the Social Media for Health Observances Guide or jump to:
- Social Media 101
- Social Media Channels
- Health Literacy and Numeracy Tips
- Other Ideas to Promote a Health Observance
- Measuring Success
- Additional Tools and Resources
Don't have the time or capacity to implement these toolkits? Don't fret! You can still engage your audience by retweeting messages from @GWCancer.
Cervical Cancer and Cervical Health Awareness Month
World Cancer Day and Cancer Prevention Month
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Minority Cancer Awareness Week
National Cancer Control Month
Melanoma and Skin Cancer Prevention Month
National Cancer Survivors Day
- See below the 2020 Cancer Survivorship Awareness toolkit (not calendar specific)
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Emerging Issues in Commercial Tobacco Use Social Media Toolkit: Provides public health professionals the opportunity to establish a commercial tobacco use prevention and cessation social media strategy. The toolkit addresses emerging issues in tobacco use and includes evidence and sample messages for 9 special populations. It can be used for No Menthol Sunday and World No Tobacco Day in May or any time throughout the year.
Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Social Media Toolkit: Provides public health professionals the opportunity to establish a viral hepatitis and liver cancer prevention and awareness social media strategy. It can be used in May for Viral Hepatitis Awareness Month, November for Liver Cancer Awareness Month or any time throughout the year.
HPV Vaccine Myth Busting for Health Care Providers: Corrects commonly held misconceptions around HPV vaccination and promotes best practices for health care providers.
Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Awareness
Palliative Care Awareness
Cancer Surviorship Awareness
SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HEALTH OBSERVANCES GUIDE
The Social Media for Health Observances Guide can help you plan, implement, and evaluate your social media strategy and make the case for why it’s important. This Guide can be used by public health professionals, cancer control professionals, cancer centers, coalitions, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders can use this toolkit and adapt its messaging for their unique audiences and areas of expertise.
As of 2018, there were 3.2 billion active monthly social media users and 90% of them accessed social media on mobile devices (Kemp, 2018). Seventy-two percent of adults reported using social networking sites in 2019 (Pew Research Center, 2019). YouTube is reported as the most commonly used social media platform, followed by Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter (Perrin & Anderson, 2019). In addition, 75% of adults have used social media to discuss health (Fox, 2014).
Ninety percent of physicians reported reading patient and practice-related content on the Internet and social media (Bhaskar, 2017). Fifty-three percent of health care professionals reported sharing medical information with peers on social media at least once a day (Hazzam, & Lahrech, 2018). Social media help health care professionals distribute information, encourage healthy choices, build and maintain professional networks, and engage with patients and their families, health care students and professionals, and the broader public (Ventola, 2014). Social media tools can be particularly valuable as part of patient care, health care professionals’ and patients’ education, and public health campaigns (Ventola, 2014).
Social media provides a “socially mediated pathway” to distribute health-related messaging. It links people to social networks and communities that provide built-in incentives and personalized guidance to make behavioral changes (Sarkar et al., 2018). Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use social media to “provide users with access to credible, science-based health information” and to “reinforce and personalize messages, reach new audiences, and build a communication infrastructure based on open information exchange” (CDC, 2016).
The first step when designing your social media strategy should be to identify and learn about your audience. Ask yourself:
- Who is my intended audience? Be as specific as possible.
- What health issue or issues affect my audience?
- What action do I want my audience to take and why?
- What social media platforms does my audience use and how do they prefer to be reached with health messaging?
- What communication tactics will be most effective and what messages resonate the most?
Looking to establish a social media strategy for your organization or make the case for why it’s important? The CDC offers a variety of social media tools to create and establish a social media strategy. They also offer guidelines and best practices, evaluation strategies, tools, and templates.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, and more—social media is growing every day, along with opportunities for outreach. Below are best practices for some of the most popular social media platforms, but many of these tips can apply to other media like blogs, websites, or mobile apps.
Twitter Best Practices
- Keep tweets below the 280-character limit. This allows other users to retweet while adding their own comments (@handles don’t count toward the 280-character limit).
- Add colorful graphics including photos, videos, infographics, or other illustrations whenever possible. Tweets with images receive an average of 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets (Kim, 2018).
- Post regularly and make sure content is useful and relevant to your audience.
- Interact with your audience instead of talking “at” them. Ask questions and listen to build engagement.
- Use hashtags to link to the larger conversation. Check Symplur for any relevant healthcare hashtags.
- Engage others by tweeting at their Twitter handles when possible (tweets that begin with a username will reach all of your followers, but will be categorized as “replies”; if you want the tweet to be seen on your main timeline, use “.@” at the beginning).
- Twitter, Sprout Social and Hootsuite as well as other social media scheduling tools offer options to shorten links as you write tweets.
- Promote engagement with other organizations by liking or retweeting their content. You can add your own comment as part of retweeting. Likewise, be responsive and recognize retweets, mentions and when other share your content.
- Remember that tweets cannot be edited once they are posted, so proofread before you post!
Facebook Best Practices
- Facebook algorithms prioritize “meaningful interactions” over unrelated content. This means posting content that feels personal, conversational, and authentic is more effective (Facebook, 2018).
- Shorter posts (around 250 characters or less) get up to 60% more distribution than longer posts (Cooper, 2016).
- Post consistently and with a variety of different content types like video or photos to maximize reach and make your content stand out (Facebook, 2018). Posts with photos receive up to 50% more likes than non-photo posts (Hershkowitz & Lavrusik, 2013). Visual content is forty times more likely to be shared than other content (Zantal-Wiener, 2019).
- Monitor interactions and comments with visitors to your page, using Facebook analytics and insights to see how your audience is interacting with your comments. Track your results and act on them, focusing your efforts on what’s working.
- Don’t post too often or too rarely, and use analytics to thoughtfully consider post timing (Zantal-Wiener, 2019).
- Vary your post type. Users don’t engage the same way with every post (Hershkowitz & Lavrusik, 2013).
- Pin important posts so visitors will see them first on your page (Zantal-Wiener, 2019).
- Develop a comment policy and moderate comments accordingly to prevent harassment in your comments section. Avoid identifying people in photos without their consent. See the CDC’s Guidelines for Public Comments for a model policy.
- Review more information about Facebook best practices from the CDC.
LinkedIn Best Practices
- Use a call to action to engage readers, like “find out more” (York, 2016a).
- Ensure that your organization’s profile is up-to-date because profiles with complete information get 30% more weekly views (LinkedIn, n.d.).
- Post consistently and ensure that your posts contain an image or other media as this is likely to increase engagement (LinkedIn, n.d.). Focus on practical and informative visuals, as this is more likely to be successful on LinkedIn (York, 2016a). Posting your own photos and photos of faces is generally more effective than stock photos or images of places or hands (Brill, 2020).
- Share content that’s likely to be relevant to your professional network and provide value to your target audience (Top Dog Social Media, n.d.). Directly uploading PDFs or short videos instead of including links can work well and do well within the LinkedIn algorithm (Brill, 2020).
- Increase engagement by creating longer posts or posts with six or more pictures on LinkedIn, so that users are encouraged to click to “see more”. Once people click, LinkedIn considers your content more engaging and they will share it with more of your followers (Brill, 2020).
- Use up to three hashtags to link to the larger conversation (Brill, 2020). Before using, search the hashtag within LinkedIn to find the hashtags with the most followers and posts.
- Consider reviewing Reddit or Quora to know what content might make interesting LinkedIn posts for your audience (Brill, 2020).
Instagram Best Practices
- Focus on sharing experiences and emotional appeals with your images over simple repetition of health information (Photoslurp, n.d.). Images and videos create engagement (York, 2016b). In videos, work to appeal to multiple senses (Bezak, 2019).
- Understand your audience and don’t try to appeal to everyone. Once you’ve identified your audience, be consistent with your style and branding (Photoslurp, n.d.).
- Use multiple hashtags to group and organize photos (Bezak, 2019). Many Instagram users search for photos using hashtags or see posts including hashtags that they follow. By using established general hashtags, your posts may reach additional viewers and potentially gain new followers. If you create your own custom hashtag, make sure it is short and intuitive.
- Welcome and recognize audience interaction (Bezak, 2019). Use creative ideas like contests and encourage user-generated content to get your audience to participate (York, 2016a). Contests don’t have to cost money, as the prize could be simple recognition.
- Use Instagram stories. As of April 2020, brands post an average of 2.5 Instagram stories per week. You should include a call to action in your story, and you can also add stickers, hashtags, sound, polls or locations. You can check story views or add a story to your highlights if you want to share it with your audience more long-term (Cooper, 2020).
- Stay relevant by leveraging existing health-related observances to spread your content – connect with what other organizations are already doing for the awareness month or event that you’re promoting (Photoslurp, n.d.).
- Recognize your audience’s engagement by liking their comments, for example. Additionally, you can like and comment on the content of related organizations or causes to gain visibility with their audiences (Bezak, 2019).
- Make your content stand out by using simple or free photo editing tools to make your images pop (York, 2016a).
- Highlight stories, graphics or key campaigns, materials or specialties by adding them under your bio with buttons (Bezak, 2019).
- Post regularly and during optimal times. Your analytics data from Instagram or other sources can help you identify when your audience is most active and likely to interact with a post (York, 2016a).
Individuals with limited health literacy have worse health outcomes (Brega et al., 2015). When developing social media messages, consider health literacy and numeracy, assess the complexity of your messages and ensure they are culturally appropriate to your intended audiences:
- Craft messages with simple and clear language. More than a quarter of U.S. adult residents have trouble understanding and using health information (Nielsen-Bohlman et al., 2004).
- Help people make sense of health information and how to use it (National Cancer Institute, 2011). Functional health literacy involves understanding personal health issues and instructions (Health Literacy Centre Europe, 2015).
- Break complex information into smaller chunks (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).
- Organize information so the most important points are first (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).
- Use integers instead of decimals if presenting data. They are more convincing and easier to remember (Witteman et al., 2011). Visual representations of data, such as icon arrays, are most effective.
- Point consumers to reliable sources of information to reinforce your message, such as trusted websites or physicians.
- Provide strategies to facilitate patient-provider communication to help patients make informed decisions (Brown et al., 2016; National Cancer Institute, n.d.). Emphasize the importance of cross-cultural communication skills for providers as they play an important role in developing trust with patients and their families throughout the cancer care continuum (Kagawa-Singer et al., 2010).
- Provide health information in languages appropriate for the target audience (McInnes & Haglund, 2011).
- Modify messages to make them accessible to people with disabilities whenever possible to reduce disparities in health care access (CDC, 2011).
- Use narrative stories. Exposure to fictional narratives may influence perceptions of social reality, behaviors or knowledge about health (Viswanath & Emmons, 2006). Create narratives with audio and video as they are more effective than text narratives alone (Shen, Sheer & Li, 2015). Use culturally resonant health promotion messages when using narratives as they may be more effective at eliciting behavior change (Larkey & Hecht, 2010).
Live Tweet an Event or Conference
Consider live tweeting a conference or other event around cancer awareness. Live tweeting is a form of note taking which is online and interactive. During an event, conference, speech or webinar, organizers and attendees can live tweet and use established hashtags so that everyone following the event hashtag can see the tweet and reply. During the event you can tweet quotes from speakers, share pictures of attendees, and retweet messages from the attendees. When quoting speakers, make sure to include their Twitter handles to let them know you are promoting their sessions. You can also pre-write tweets and schedule them to go out during the event if you know when certain parts of the event are planned to occur. Be sure to proofread carefully since tweets cannot be edited after posting.
Host or Participate in a Twitter Chat
Twitter chats are a great way to expand your audience and promote engagement with other partners and organizations. You can organize a Twitter chat yourself or simply participate in another one. Twitter chats are live moderated Twitter conversations focused around a specific topic using a single hashtag. They usually last an hour and involve a list of pre-circulated questions to participants. If you are organizing a chat, reach out to partners early and provide the list of questions as far in advance as possible. Potentially influential participants might include researchers, cancer survivors or caregivers, health care providers or other subject matter experts. When managing a Twitter chat, it is important to remember to watch out for creating an echo chamber with your partners and not reaching your audience.
Consider using a website to help manage the Twitter chat such as TWUBS.
Promote the event to your followers. Host the event, running it similarly to how you would host a live in-person meeting (introduce topic, speaker or participating organizations, your organization). Number your questions starting with a “Q” for question. For example: Q1: What questions should #cancersurvivors ask their doctor? #CancerChat Your speaker(s) can either “reply” to the question you tweet or tweet starting with an “A” and the corresponding number. For example: A1: Start with questions about treatment side effects and screening. #CancerChat
Retweet or favorite the best questions posed by your followers and answers by your speaker(s) and be sure to share relevant links and resources. After the event, archive an event summary and share with participants and your other followers. Consider using Hashtracking to create a visual transcript of the tweet chat.
Host a Facebook Live or Instagram Live Event
Facebook Live and Instagram Live are video streaming services linked to Facebook and Instagram, respectively, that can be used to connect with your followers in real-time. They offer the opportunity to conduct live questions and answers through the comment function where followers can ask questions or post commentary during the livestream (Warren, 2020). You can also use these livestream services to host an interview or broadcast an event, enabling people to participate even if they are not able to attend in person. Hosting Instagram Lives can raise the visibility of your account through automatic follower notifications, favorable positioning within the app while you are live, and through 24 hours of additional time in your stories for your audience to review (Warren, 2020).
Promote the event to your followers. Write a compelling description for your Facebook Live event which will show up in real time(?) on your followers’ Facebook newsfeeds, along with the video, to help people understand what your event is about. You can also add your location to the broadcast to increase discoverability. Keep track of your audience’s reactions to gauge how your broadcast is being received.
Share Event Photos on Instagram
Instagram is a photo sharing application that allows users to share pictures, videos, and messages with their followers. Instagram can be a great platform for increasing engagement with your audience and sharing your mission through photos. You can use Instagram to share photos from your events and feature individuals involved with the events, such as speakers or volunteers. You can also share video clips from the events by posting them to your Instagram story. Encourage followers to share their photos of your events by using a hashtag.
Pick a hashtag. Using hashtags is a way to group and organize photos together. Many users search for photos in Instagram using hashtags. If you use an established hashtag, your posts may reach audiences that you usually do not reach. If you would like to create your own hashtag, make sure it is short and intuitive. You can increase visibility of your event by having followers post their photos to Instagram with a hashtag.
Connect your Instagram to your other social media accounts to cross-promote your activities and increase engagement with your audience.
Share Your Event on Snapchat
Snapchat is another social media platform to help you share photos and videos with your followers. Snapchat has over 215 million users with a majority of users under 30 years old (Sprout Social, 2020; Statista, 2020). You can share photos and videos individually with followers or share them in your Snapchat story. Photos and videos in your Snapchat story are visible to followers for 24 hours. You can use the story feature to promote your event, provide exclusive content such as behind the scenes footage or send a call to action. Share your story to your local “Our Story” to be featured on Snapchat’s map of stories and gain more visibility.
Utilize Snapchat’s unique features to promote your organization and events. Geofilters are location-based filters than can be used on photos and videos to further promote your cause as followers can then use these geofilters in their own posts. In the past, Snapchat has created geofilters for Giving Tuesday and donated to a designated charity every time someone posted using one of those geofilters. Snapcash is a feature that allows users to send money through Snapchat which could be a useful tool for soliciting online donations.
Check out this Snapchat guide for more information.
Promote Your Cause on Pinterest
Pinterest is an online tool that can help users discover and organize creative ideas by serving as a vision board. Pinterest can be used to drive more traffic to your website by adding eye-catching images, infographics, or quotes to your Pinterest boards and linking them to your website. Pinterest boards function as albums or folders in that they categorize pins for users to peruse. If you are just starting out with Pinterest it may be good to include general boards showcasing your organization’s mission in addition to adding events or fundraising boards.
Link your website and other social media accounts to your Pinterest by including them in the profile header to expand your exposure. If you have a YouTube channel or photo sharing page, consider sharing those videos and photos on Pinterest as well.
Publish a Blog Post
Publishing blog posts can be a great way to highlight the successes of your organization and promote your events. Consider writing a post with a call to action for your readers to attend your awareness month events. Personal stories of patients or survivors, for example, can make for powerful blog posts by connecting with the reader emotionally. Use visuals such as photos and videos to illustrate your narrative and engage readers.
Create dialogue. Use your blog not only to share stories but also to communicate with your readers and increase engagement. Ask for audience feedback on your content and promote a space to discuss issues and share success stories.
Host a Reddit Ask Me Anything
Reddit is a social news aggregation, content rating, and discussion website. An Ask Me Anything (A.M.A.) is a feature on Reddit where users can interview someone with a notable trait, such as a researcher or other expert, through posting questions to the Reddit message board. The A.M.A. begins with the interviewee posting an introduction about themselves and then users respond with questions and comments. Users can “upvote” posted questions to indicate that are also interested in knowing the answer to those questions. A.M.A.s can be scheduled to start and stop at certain times or be open-ended in duration. Consider hosting an A.M.A. with a cancer expert or survivor.
Publicize your A.M.A. through your other social media channels to draw more participants.
Host a Survivors Meetup Event
Consider hosting a meetup for local cancer survivors. It doesn’t have to be a formal support group setting or even have cancer survivorship as the main focus. It could simply be a social activity intended to gather cancer survivors, caregivers or family members who have been affected by cancer.
Consider reaching out to local organizations to solicit donations or prizes for the event. Organize a social media giveaway or prizes to encourage people to use your hashtag and engage with your content. Twitter and Instagram photo contests are another a great way to get your followers involved and engaged.
You might also consider hosting a special webinar or panel to promote cancer survivorship. Make sure to reach out to potential partners early to ensure support. Check out Communication Training for Comprehensive Cancer Control (CCC) Professionals 101 for more information on working with local media.
Best Practices for Engagement Events and Activities
When planning any event or activity, consider these tips:
- Plan early and well
- Expand your audience and reach by partnering with another organization
- Make sure you use an original hashtag (unless it makes sense to use an established hashtag)
- Involve well-known local figures to help raise the profile of your event(s) and increase participation and engagement
Looking to measure the success of your social media campaign? Several platforms offer analytic tools to allow you to demonstrate the impact of your social media efforts.
Allows users to track page likes, post reach, number of visits, and specific posts, as well as who is following your page. According to Facebook, “posts that get more likes, comments and shares show up more in News Feed and are seen by more people. Posts that are hidden, reported as spam or cause people to unlike your page reach fewer people.”
Available in the app for users who have an Instagram Business Profile. This tool allows you to see overall account metrics, follower demographics and metrics for your Instagram stories, such as impression, reach and replies.
Paid service that allows users to manage their Snapchat stories, Instagram stories and Instagram accounts and can help identify the most engaging content across platforms.
Allows users to see and download detailed tracking information about tweet activity, engagement, audience and trends over time. Log in with your Twitter username and password to learn more.
Allows users to track statistics about your reach, activity and engagement. It provides you with audience and account insights so you can strategize what you need to do to boost your Pinterest presence.
These social media, communication and design tools can help you enhance your online presence and overall communications strategy.
General Social Media Tools and Resources:
Allows users to create visually appealing graphics and photos for social media and print materials; includes a collection of low-cost or free stock photos and backgrounds.
Provides a gallery of CDC-designed infographics to visually communicate data or information.
Designed for public health image sharing. CDC images include public health photos and graphics developed for public health events that users can comment on and share
Free image library from CDC.
GW Cancer Center’s Online Academy provides numerous training and education opportunities, from cancer survivorship care for primary care providers to communication trainings for cancer professionals looking to launch a public education campaign.
Companion guide to the Communication Training for Comprehensive Cancer Control Professionals (Comm 102) that explores the process for planning, implementing and evaluating a communication campaign.
Additional social media toolkits for other health-related observances throughout the year.
Social media management platform that allows users to schedule social media posts, keep up with trends and followers, and collect basic analytics for evaluation.
Companion guide to Media Planning and Media Relations (Comm 101) training that covers working with the media and establishing a communications and media strategy.
Live-streaming video app to show events or videos live to your audience on social media.
Paid social media management platform that allows users to schedule social media posts, keep up with trends and followers, and collect basic analytics for evaluation.
Link shortening service that allows for customization of URLs to make them more memorable.
Platform from Twitter that allows for pre-scheduling tweets and graphics.
Image and Graphics Banks
Designed for public health image sharing. CDC images include public health photos and graphics developed for public health events that users can comment on and share.
Provides a gallery of CDC-designed infographics to visually communicate data or information.
Free image library from CDC.
Co-brandable media, infographics and more resources targeted for LGBT individuals.
Free-to-use cancer images and other searchable photos.
Ask Me Anything (A.M.A.): A feature of Reddit where users can interview someone through posting questions to the Reddit message board
Crowdsource: Harnessing the knowledge base and skills of an external community for the purpose of collaboratively solving problems, sharing knowledge, or gathering opinions
Direct Message: Private messages between Twitter users or Instagram users
Facebook Live: A live video streaming service provided through Facebook
Feed: News feeds which you receive straight into your account
Followers: People who have agreed to see your tweets or posts on Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest
Hashtags (#): A form of metadata tag that makes it possible to group messages on many social media platforms
Instagram: A photo sharing application that allows users to share pictures and videos to their followers either publicly or privately to pre-approved followers (www.instagram.com/)
Instagram Live: “A totally unedited stream for your followers to tune into and engage with” that allows live questions and comments from the audience (Warren, 2020)
Instagram Story: “A camera-first fullscreen visual format that disappears after 24 hours, modeled after Snapchat” (Cooper, 2020); multiple stories can be posted without being overwhelming since they do not appear in the news feed
LinkedIn: A social networking site for the business community that allows registered members to establish and document networks (www.linkedin.com)
Live Tweet: To post comments about an event on Twitter while the event is taking place
Pinterest: A website where users can discover information mainly through images, GIFs (animated images), and videos (www.pinterest.com/)
Reddit: A social news aggregation, content rating, and discussion website (www.reddit.com)
Retweet (RT): Re-posting of someone else’s tweet
Snapchat: An image messaging application where messages auto-delete after a set amount of seconds
Timeline: A real-time list of posts on Facebook
Tweets: 280-character text messages on Twitter
Twitter chat: A live moderated Twitter conversation focused around a specific topic using a single hashtag
Twitter handle: Your Twitter name that begins with the “@” sign. For example: @GWCancer
Twittersphere or Twitterverse: The total universe of Twitter users and their habits
See Twitter’s “Twitter Glossary” for more.
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