A new study of the Facebook pages of 20 Australian public health agencies reveals that videos, celebrities, sports stars, emotional appeals and factual information generate greatest user-engagement, while techniques such as sponsorships and authority figures reduce user engagement.
Published today in PLOS ONE, the University of Sydney study is the first to reveal how different content, communication techniques and marketing elements affect Facebook fans’ engagement as measured by metrics such as likes, sharing and comments.
Facebook sites analysed in the study included beyondblue, Movember Foundation, R U OK Day, Cancer Council NSW and Heart Foundation.
The findings are relevant to the increasing use of Facebook by public health agencies as they seek to promote healthy behaviours in areas such as diet, smoking, alcohol, drug use, and mental and sexual health.
Our results showed that video posts attracted the greatest amount of user engagement.
Until now, organisations have had little research-based guidance on how to best engage the two-thirds of Australian adults that have Facebook accounts.
“Our results showed that video posts attracted the greatest amount of user engagement,” said University PhD student James Kite who led the study.
“However, this finding almost certainly reflects the influence of the Facebook algorithm governing what is shown in user newsfeeds, and which appears to preference videos over other post types.”
“These results are a necessary first step in filling the knowledge gap on the effective use of Facebook by public health organisations,” says University of Sydney co-author, Dr Becky Freeman.
“By critically examining the characteristics of Facebook posts created by Australian-based public health organisations, we have identified post types and marketing techniques that attract greater or lesser user engagement.
“The study shows that in order to increase the chances of achieving public health goals, public health agencies using Facebook need to encourage engagement and adapt to the Facebook algorithm to maximise message exposure, while ensuring their content is high quality.”