How do Australian health authorities use social media to target youth with COVID-19 messages? A content analysis.
Title: How do Australian health authorities use social media to target youth with COVID-19 messages? A content analysis.
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of social media to disseminate health information to the public. Health authorities can harness social media to target messages to priority populations, such as young people, in a timely and accessible way.
Aims: This study investigated the content of COVID-19 social media posts by Australian health authorities targeting young people (16-29 years old).
Methods: COVID-19 posts from all Australian State and Territory health department Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok accounts were extracted over the month of September 2021. Youth-targeted posts were subsequently extracted and their content analysed thematically with metrics subject to descriptive statistics.
Results: In total, 238 youth-targeted posts were identified from 1059 COVID-19 posts extracted. All health departments used Facebook, five used Instagram, and only one used TikTok. The majority of posts implicitly targeted youth; only 14.7% explicitly mentioned age. The COVID-19 ‘outbreak’ states most commonly posted about testing and vaccination (38% and 27% of posts), whilst non-outbreak states concentrated on vaccination (72% of posts). All posts included accompanying visuals; 77% were still images whilst 23% were videos. Engagement strategies were present, but rarely used; only 6% of posts were memes and 16% used humour. Priority groups such as cultural or chronic health and disability groups were rarely targeted in posts.
Conclusions: There is a need for greater health communication explicitly targeting young people on social media to cut through misinformation. Health authorities can leverage popular social media phenomena like memes, humour and virality to effectively deliver public health messages to this target group.