Imagine this. A poster reflecting the latest effort by a local health department hangs by a thread on one of the walls in a public transportation terminal. The problem? The carefully planned & expensive campaign ended 2 months ago.

A text message on your smartphone arrives at a pre-determined time by way of an obnoxious vibration on your desk. The purpose? To remind you to take your medicine. The problem? You opted out of the program 3 weeks ago.

A Facebook page is created to engage a target audience on tips to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Lots of photos and questions ensue. The problem? The social media coordinator gets overwhelmed with work and the page quickly becomes unresponsive.

What do all of these scenarios have in common? The results of great ideas to improve the health of communities, however managing the social aspects for sustainable impact fell short. Whether the issue revolves around staffing, follow up or an understanding of best practices – it is vitally important to have an understanding of how to manage the social tools and technologies we have to make public health efforts relevant.

Here’s what we know (or should know):

  • many Americans are being bombarded with information because of constant technology connection
  • the information comes from a variety of sources including word of mouth, Web searches and social media
  • often times this information can be misleading and downright incorrect
  • it is easy for the average consumer to get frustrated, give up and/or completely ignore relevant health content
  • social media is not a magic bullet but can be helpful in how health professionals operate

It is now more important than ever to have not only a cursory understanding of what social tools are but also on how to effectively manage their use. Those examples above mean that it is no longer enough to just tackle on social media onto overall strategies like a glossy finish. If we want to truly take on the use of social technology in how we create health in our communities, we have to understand that it is a responsibility. A responsibility to integrate and actively pursue best practices that ultimately help us reach our goals: preventing disease and empowering healthier lives.

For more information about APHA-LI 1007.0 and to review the full conference schedule, click here! Follow the APHA-LI 107.0 hashtag #SocialLI and the APHA conference hash tag #APHA13 on Twitter for updates and news about the event!It’s not enough just to get started anymore or to say “Hey, we’re on Twitter”. Lives are at stake – let’s learning how to manage the responsibility of social engagement to do better work.