COVID-19 messages targeting young people on social media: content analysis of Australian health authority posts.

Oxford University Press (OUP)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Health Promot Int, 2023, 38, (2), pp. daad034
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Health authorities utilized social media during the COVID-19 pandemic to disseminate critical and timely health messages, specifically targeting priority groups such as young people. To understand how social media was used for this purpose, we investigated the content of COVID-19-related social media posts targeting young people (16-29 years old) shared by Australian health departments. Posts targeting young people with COVID-19 information were extracted from all eight Australian State and Territory health department Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts over 1 month of the Delta outbreak (September 2021) and analysed thematically. In total, 238 posts targeting young people were identified from 1059 COVID-19 posts extracted. All eight health departments used Facebook, five used Instagram and only one used TikTok. The majority of posts implicitly targeted young people; only 14.7% explicitly mentioned age or 'young people'. All posts included accompanying visuals; 77% were still images like photos or illustrations whilst 23% were moving images like videos and GIFs. Communication techniques included calls to action (63% of posts), responsive communication (32% of posts) and positive emotional appeal (31% of posts). Social marketing techniques catering to young people were used to varying extents despite receiving higher levels of engagement; 45% featured emojis whilst only 16% used humour, 14% featured celebrities and 6% were memes. Priority groups like ethnic/cultural groups and chronic health/disability communities were rarely targeted in this communication. The findings indicate a lack of health communication on social media directed towards young people, highlighting an opportunity for increased use of platforms like TikTok and trends popular with young people online.
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