What You Can Learn from HHS Facebook Pages (Part 1 of 3)

By Eric Diaz. Blog series originally posted at DK Web Consulting.

It’s not just the private sector jumping on the social media bandwagon. Government agencies are using the robust Facebook platform to reach the public too. This is the first installment of three in a series about the US Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) use of Facebook.[1]


The goal of this report series is to provide government agencies with a bench-marking tool so they may know how their own social media channels compare within their own branch of government as well as among all government social media properties. This tool may be used by government agencies with existing social media channels as well as those looking to launch for the first time.

Intro To HHS Facebook Pages: By The Numbers

We learned that the 66 HHS Facebook pages average just fewer than 10,000 fans (9,687) per page. According to Facebook’s new “Talking About” data, 1.9% of fans are talking about these respective pages. Content creation varies as 16 of the 66 pages (24%) did not have a single post during a 7 day period within our evaluation time frame. Of the other 50 pages that did post during that 7 day period, the quantity ranged between 1 and 15 posts per week, with 0.7 posts per day being the average. The percentage of posts-per-day drops significantly on the weekends, as only 6% of HHS pages published content on either Saturday or Sunday. Despite all of the engagement and activity, 26 of the 66 (39%) HHS agencies don’t allow fans to post on their Facebook walls. With this intro let’s dig a bit deeper and see how HHS pages compare with other government Facebook pages, and among their own.

The NIOSH (National Institue for Occupational Safety and Health) Facebook page

The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Facebook page

Who’s ‘Talking About’ HHS Agencies?

As of several updates ago, Facebook began publishing the number of fans “talking about” the respective page. The number of people talking about any given Facebook page is based on the number of fans creating stories, which include: sharing, liking, or commenting on a post; answering a question; or responding to an event. Based on the 66 HHS organizations’ analyzed, approximately 1.9% of fans “talk about” the HHS pages they are a fan of. This number compares to 3.2% of fans on average that talk about all 126 government pages researched. 1.9% of fans means that the average HHS page had 184 people who have recently engaged with a post or shared a story about that Facebook page.

Engagement on individual posts, however, reflects a much lower number than the 184 average. Approximately 0.25% of fans are engaged on posts as determined by the study’s criteria: fans who liked, shared or commented on a post within the period of data analyzed.[2] That is to say, the average HHS page post receives 24 engagements (likes, comments, or shares). The difference between engagements per post, which is manually counted, and Talking About which is Facebook data, can be partly explained by the amount of fans creating stories about the page but not necessarily engaging with the most recent page posts. We also note that Facebook users who have recently liked a page are included in the Talking About data. Interestingly, HHS pages rank favorably compared to other government pages when measured by engagement per post, with twice the engagement of its peers (Military, Spanish, and Other Govt). However when viewed by Talking About, HHS is about 50% lower than Military pages which averaged nearly 4% talking about.

The Administration on Aging ranks highest of all HHS agencies in percentaage of fans talking about their page

The Administration on Aging ranks highest of all HHS agencies in percentaage of fans talking about their page

What Are HHS Agencies Talking About?

Content published on the HHS Facebook pages is pretty uniform throughout. Most commonly published posts include links to articles, blog posts, news information and job postings. It appears a number of government agencies used their Facebook pages to provide a curated news source relevant to their agency’s mission. Besides keeping their fans informed, many HHS agencies such as We Can and Stop Bullying sought public feedback from fans to respond and post responses on their posts.

The ‘We Can’ page often asks their fan base for their opinions on health topics

The ‘We Can’ page often asks their fan base for their opinions on health topics

Your Thoughts

Based on the findings one can infer that fans are interested in following official government health pages such as those belonging to HSS. However, becoming a fan does not guarantee participation. Do you follow a government agency on Facebook? Do you participate regularly? If not, what content do you think would motivate you to engage? We’d like to hear your thoughts on the Facebook presence of HHS agencies

Want The Full Report?

Due to size restrictions, we only cover several of the highlights of the report on this 3 part blog series. If you would like the full complimentary report which includes all analysis in one PDF file please provide your name and email to [email protected] and you will receive it by email.

[1] All analysis was performed between January and March of 2012.

[2] For this study the most recent three posts were analyzed that had been on the page for over 24 hours.

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