Social Media Abuzz with Swine Flu (H1N1)

May 5, 2009

Social media has over the past week been domianted by swine flu (H1N1) discussion. This weeks experience is the perfect example of why health/development agencies must take their messgae to where people are, and where the discussion is happening.

WHO raised the pandemic level to an alarming 5 (out of 6), and panicked people across the globe turned to the Internet for information: In no time, blogosphere discussion on swine flu surpassed even the buzz created by singing star Susan Boyle. Hundreds of updates were made to Wikipedia’s swine flu page, and 500+ Facebook groups were established. Twitter ruled online discussion, with more than 10,000 tweets on swine flu recorded per hour!

Throughout this feverish online activity, WHO was fairly absent (though being quoted in all media). CDC ,on the other hand, has been using social media tools in textbook manner, establishing themselves as the trusted expert and online voice of reason. Through two Twitter accounts: @CDCEmergency and @CDC_eHealth they are providing information updates, and followers has risen to more than 65,000 (from 600 prior to the outbreak). Through Twitter, CDC has also directed people to their YouTube channel where videos related to swine flu have so far clocked up more than 800,000 views. They’ve also set up a page on their own website, with RSS feeds, podcasts, subscription to email updates etc.. The approach is paying off, with total website visits having grown by 123% this week alone.  Need one say more?