What You Can Learn from HHS Facebook Pages (Part 2 of 3)

By Eric Diaz. Blog series originally posted at DK Web Consulting. Click here for Part 1 in the series on HHS Facebook page use.

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 second 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.

Facebook tabs — Which are the most popular among HHS agencies?

Tabs were counted as any tabs in addition to the default Photos tab. The most commonly used Facebook tab among HHS agencies is a Video tab that allows agencies to publish informative video content for their users. One could infer that the prevalence of a Privacy Policy tab containing moderation rules was due to the large number of agencies that allowed fans to post directly on their walls. ‘Welcome pages’ were used by a number of HHS agencies including several of the CDC and National Cancer InstituteFacebook pages. Other popular customized tabs used were a Contact tab or a Questions tab that allowed users to write in with questions or concerns directly on the Facebook page. These messaging customized tabs will likely be discontinued as most pages are now using Facebook’s new message functionality allowing fans to message page admins from the wall. Other tabs may also be in jeopardy as Facebook has recently disallowed the practice of allowing fans to be defaulted to a custom tab rather than the Wall. Finally we note that integrating additional social networks, such as Flickr and Twitter, was a popular use of tabs across all organizations as well.

CDC Welcome Page

The CDC’s Welcome tab, which originally was a default landing page

Tab Usage by HHS Agencies

The average number of custom tabs used among all 66 pages was 3.4, ranging from zero to as many as 11 found on the Office of Womens Health page. Tab usage did not correlate to high fan count; the pages with the most fans did not necessarily have the most tabs. In fact out of the 6 pages with over 20,000 fans, only the CDC and Stop Bullying[2] had more than 3 custom tabs. These two organizations built custom tabs to act as supplemental sources of information. The CDC page had 8 tabs including a Welcome page, a Comment Policy, and pages for specific programs including Vital Signs and Sexual Health. The Public Health Emergency page uses 7 tabs to promote information about fellow partners and other facets of the organization itself. Drug Facts Week, which also had 6 custom tabs, used the tabs to cross-promote other social platforms.

Office of Womens Health

The Office on Women’s Health page uses 11 tabs, leading usage among HHS agencies

Application Usage

Only 13% of the 66 organizations used applications such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to publish content. These include: NIDA Drug Facts Week, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Of the 8 agencies that use apps, 5 of them use Hootsuite, two of them use Social RSS, and one uses Selective Tweets. The other 58 HHS pages publish and respond to tweets manually and in real time. The majority of the pages that used an app had above average fans talking about the page, and all but one posted more often than the average. Food Safety’s three posts per day indicate steady maintenance to the page while the 3.67% of fans talking about the page indicate a venerable level of rapport. Weekend postings don’t appear to be the reason why HHS pages turn to these apps since only one page (Drug Facts Week) was found to post on the weekend using an app. The platforms, however, provide an efficient way to monitor statistics and fan interaction which may be why these agencies have opted to use them.

NIDA Drug Facts

The NIDA Drug Facts page uses an application to post some of its content

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 info (at) dkwebconsulting.com and you will receive it by email.

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

[2] The Stop Bullying page has since removed most of their tabs with the exception of a Comment Policy

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