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Public Health Social Media Challenge Expert Forum Shares Social Media Tips

Posted on May 15, 2014 by Fraser Ratchford

The ImagineNation Public Health Social Media Challenge seeks to inspire public health organizations in Canada to use social media initiatives in creative and innovative ways to improve public health. We’ve had a number of public health teams sign up already and recently held an Expert Forum where some of the teams presented their social media initiatives to a panel of experts for feedback and advice.

Our experts included: Dr. David Buckeridge, Associate Professor - Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University; David Fleet, the Senior Vice President of Canada East at Edelman Digital; Dr. Cameron Norman of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and Naqaash Pirani, a Technology Consultant and PhD student at Ivey Business School.

Here are some of the tips they offered:


  • Ask yourself: Why would someone choose to follow me? See it from your audience’s perspective and let this be your guide.
  • Audience targeting is important: It frames what you do.
  • Think about ways to connect your social media strategy to your offline strategy. Take pictures of offline material and include hashtags on offline collateral.


  • Create a cohesive content strategy: Think about the tone of voice and visuals you’re using.
  • A lot of content is consumed on mobile devices these days, so keep it short and punchy.
  • Plan out your content: It’s work up front, but reduces the burden later.
  • Not all social media channels are the same. Tailor your content and engagement strategy to each and don’t feel you have to play in all of them.
  • The worst thing you can do is go silent and not have content: Post about other things your target audience would be interested in.
  • Get people accustomed to your hashtags so they can join the conversation.

Paid campaigns

  • The nature of Facebook is changing and paid dollars are becoming really important – but spend your money wisely.
  • Don’t try to amplify everything with a paid campaign. See what resonates with your audience first.


  • Add tracking codes to your links to be able to follow your traffic throughout your eco system.


  • Be familiar with the rules of the social network you’re posting to.

What other best practices should public health organizations keep in mind as they try to connect with their target audience? Share your thoughts.

Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.

fratchford 240Fraser Ratchford is a Senior Director at Canada Health Infoway and works with Infoway’s partners to electronically connect citizens to their health information, to their care team, and to other virtual health services and tools. Prior to his role at Infoway, Fraser held a number of leadership positions in health care. His major focus over the past 30 years has been digital health, working in various sectors including government, hospital and public health.


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