Social Media Basics

Is your organization using social media as part of your communications strategy? By taking the time to familiarize yourself with a few social media basics, you can reach more people and make an impact by communicating directly with your audience.

Roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they use any kind of social media site, a number that has remained relatively stable over the past five years (Pew Research Center, 2021). If your organization does not have a presence on social media, you may be missing out on opportunities to reach new audiences or share helpful resources. Social media can help health care professionals distribute information, encourage healthy choices, build and maintain professional networks, and engage with patients and their families, health care students and professionals, and the broader public (Ventola, 2014).

The first step when designing your social media strategy should be to identify and learn about your audience. Ask yourself:

  • Who is my intended audience? Be as specific as possible.
  • What health issue(s) affect my audience?
  • What action do I want my audience to take and why?
  • What social media platforms does my audience use for health-related messaging?
  • What communication tactics will be most effective
  • What messages resonate the most?

Social media can link people to social networks and communities that provide built-in incentives and personalized guidance to make behavioral changes (Sarker et al., 2018). Once your organization has identified your target audience, the four tips below can help you launch a successful social media strategy:

  1. Choose the platforms that are best for your audience. In general, YouTube is the most commonly used social media platform, followed by Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter, but it’s important to focus your attention on the platforms that your particular audience is using (Pew Research Center, 2021).
  2. Keep a consistent tone and voice across your posts. While it’s helpful to vary the type of content your organization posts, it’s also important to define the type of information your audience is looking for and meet that need.
  3. Post content regularly. Posting content regularly is a critical aspect of a successful social media strategy. By posting often, you create more opportunities for people to see your content in their social media feed. Different platforms have different optimal posting schedules, this resource on the best times to post on social media can help you create a strategic plan (Barnhart, 2021).
  4. Monitor and evaluate your social media. By tracking key metrics like clicks and engagement, you can optimize your social media strategy and discover what works for your organization.

Looking to establish a social media strategy for your organization or make the case for why it’s important? The CDC offers a variety of social media tools to create and establish a social media strategy. They also offer guidelines and best practices, evaluation strategies, tools, and templates.


Barnhart, B. (2021, March 9). Social media demographics to inform your brand's strategy in 2021. Sprout Social Blog. Retrieved from

Pew Research Center. (2021). Social Media Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

Sarker, U., Le, G. M., Lyles, C. R., Ramo, D., Linos, E., and Bibbins-Domingo, K. (2018). Using social media to target cancer prevention in young adults: Viewpoint. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(6), e203-e210. http//

Ventola. (2014). Social media and health care professionals: Benefits, risks, and best practices. Pharmacy and Therapeutics39(7), 491-499.