Public Health Communication and Engagement on Social Media during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Social media provides governments the opportunity to directly communicate with their constituents. During a pandemic, reaching as many citizens as possible with health messaging is critical to reducing the spread of the disease. This study evaluates efforts to spread healthcare information by Canadian local, provincial, and federal governments during the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We collect all health-related communications coming from government accounts on Facebook and Twitter and analyze the data using a nested mixed method approach. We first identify quantifiable features linked with citizen engagement, before subsequently performing content analysis on outlier posts. We make two critical contributions to existing knowledge about government communication, particularly during public health crises. We identify cross-platform variations in strategy effectiveness and draw attention to specific, evidence-based practices that can increase engagement with government health information.
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