Communicating Health – Understanding the Aspects of an Engaging Social Media Post

Ms Emma Herron1, Ms Annika Molenaar1, Mr Jamie Choong1, Dr Karen Klassen1, Dr Megan Lim2, Prof Linda Brennan3, Prof Mike Reid4, Prof Helen Truby1, Dr Tracy McCaffrey1

1Department of Nutrition, Dietetics & Food, Monash University, Notting Hill, Australia, 2Behaviours and Health Risks, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia, 3School of Media & Communication, RMIT University , Melbourne, Australia, 4School of Economics, Finance & Marketing, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia


People are increasingly using social media (SM) to seek health and nutrition information, with some content increasing audience engagement (likes, comments, share etc). We aimed to identify strategies used on SM associated with higher engagement, across popular profiles in Australia, from food industry (n=10); lifestyle personalities (n=10); health organisations (n=7); and nutrition professionals (n=10).

An exploratory content analysis, using a coding framework was conducted on SM content (n=524 SM posts) across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for 4 weeks (February to March) in 2018. The association between content strategies and engagement metrics was explored using multivariate linear regression.

Engagement was higher for lifestyle personalities on all platforms. Strategies most associated with higher engagement were content “Showing People” on Instagram (β 0.233, 95% CI (0.298 to 1.041), p<0.001) and a “Positive Tone” on Twitter (β 0.218, 95% Cl (0.037 to 0.246), p<0.009). Other strategies associated with increased engagement included “Fast-Paced” videos (e.g. recipes) on Facebook, “Body Image” related content on Instagram and “Visually Appealing” content on Twitter. Strategies associated with lower engagement were posts of “Health Success” on both Facebook (β= -0.208, 95% CI (-0.274 to -0.065), p <0.002) and Instagram (β= -0.228, 95% CI (-1.017 to -0.265), p<0.001) and Twitter content with “Links to Health Information” (β= -0.251, 95% CI (-0.265 to -0.067), p<0.001).

Significance of the findings to allied health:
Nutrition professionals and health organisations could learn from successful engagement strategies of online personalities as to how to increase reach and interactions with social media content.


Dr Tracy McCaffrey is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food at Monash University. She is a Registered Nutritionist (UK) with a research focus in Public Health Nutrition. At Monash, she leads the research stream on Dietary Assessment Methodologies to provide specialist analysis and advice on suitable methods to assess dietary intake. She has advised government departments in Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland on the assessment of dietary intakes and consumer understanding of portion size. Dr McCaffrey is currently chair of the Melbourne group for the Nutrition Society of Australia and Trustee of the Australian Nutrition Trust Fund. She is co-investigator and project co-ordinator on Communicating Health.