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Put Your Audience First When Devising a Social Media Plan

Posted on July 8, 2014 by Fraser Ratchford

I recently had the pleasure of hosting our second Expert Forum. For one hour, teams participating in our ImagineNation Public Health Social Media Challenge presented their social media initiatives to receive feedback from a group of experts. The Public Health Social Media Challenge is designed to inspire public health organizations in Canada to use social media in creative and innovative ways to reach out to and connect with their audience.

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

Naqaash Pirani, a Technology Consultant and PhD student at Ivey Business School

The dialogue between our experts and the teams was very informative. Although targeted, the advice provided by our experts could be useful to any organization trying to extend their reach through social media.

Here are some highlights:


  • There’s a temptation to focus on extending your reach — but don’t neglect depth. Are you having meaningful conversations?

Audience segmentation

    • Build sites that are tailored to your audience. If you are targeting more than one audience, create separate landing pages for each segment.
    • Different demographics use different networks. Try to figure out where your audience is and rather than trying to pull them into new networks, go where they already are.
    • Tailor your branding to your audience. Consider fun visuals for younger audience segments.
    • If you are using channels such as Twitter where you target more than one audience segment, consider using hashtags to target your reach.
    • Consider a content strategy in which you focus on a particular audience segment on a particular day to target your reach. It will alert your key audience to look for content on that day.
    • Using promoted status updates could be one way to target posts on Facebook to different audience segments


  • If your audience is younger and will primarily be consuming your content through mobile devices, tailor your content and website design for those devices — reduce the number of choices and simplify navigation. Don’t make your website “also” mobile friendly — make it primarily mobile friendly.


  • If possible, go beyond measuring social media metrics to measuring the action you are trying to have your audience take.
  • Have a clear call to action in order to make it easier to measure your effectiveness.
  • Consider doing a survey of your audience to learn more about them.
  • If you are having conversations with your audience, examine these conversations — they can prompt questions about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.


  • No one wants to be preached to. If possible, tell emotive stories with a positive message.
  • Use chats for longer form content which can live on your site. Not a lot of people are spending time on Google+, but the hangout function is great for chatting.
  • Social is going very visual — even on those channels that were not traditionally very visual. Engagement can increase significantly on these channels when visuals are used.

Go beyond social

  • Don’t restrict your messages to social media, while neglecting traditional channels, such as email. It can still be an effective way to reach your audience.

To get more tips, read my earlier blog post, Public Health Social Media Challenge Expert Forum Shares Social Media Tips, and please share your own tips with us.

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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