12 Days of SMEM: CDC and H1N1 Influenza

Okay, this one might seem like a bit of a cop-out because it’s not
just one best practice. That’s right, we’re talking today about the
yeoman’s work done by the CDC during H1N1 influenza. And really, if
you complained, you might have a point. I mean, I could probably do a
12DaysofCDCsResponsetoH1N1 and it’d turnout well.

My focus is slightly shifted, though, and that’s why I think this counts.

Let’s look at everything CDC did during the H1N1 influenza pandemic:
multiple Twitter accounts, YouTube channel, a Facebook Page, a MySpace
account, widgets, freely distributed buttons and badges, syndicated
content, mobile websites, email listservs, text messaging programs,
and on and on. At the time, in public health, each of these was
cutting edge. And in public health emergencies, each of these was so
far ahead of cutting edge that it’s more appropriate to say they gave
us the first glimpse of what could be done, so others could be cutting

Now shift your focus a bit. Each of these was important, but the most
important part of this effort was the scope. This was a full court
press the likes of which had never been attempted by a government
agency. (Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about what experience showed that
social media could be useful, but this is a whole ‘nother animal
altogether.) Not only was there a recognition that public health
information could be pushed in ways that didn’t involve a press
release, but a full-blown search for every way that the public
consumed information was conducted and then a concerted effort to
integrate that into the constellation of outreach and engagement was

Constellation. Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. While each star is
beautiful and lovely, it’s only when they’re organized just so that
the underlying beauty shines through and makes the sum greater than
the parts. And this constellation did just that. According to one

On Facebook CDC had frequent wall postings that primarily consisted of links to their information and news articles; most of these posting received multiple comments from fans. The CDC’s Facebook Profile Page went from having 7,000 fans in May 2009 (when it was launched) to more than 53,000 fans in December of the same year.

Also, the CDC’s three Twitter accounts had over 400,000 clickthroughs of flu-related tweets during 2009. Prior to the H1N1 outbreak CDC had fewer than 3,000 total followers. By December 2009, these three accounts combined had 1,251,936 followers.

During 2009, the CDC’s H1N1 Website had 248.5 million page views and more than 585,126 views of syndicated content on partner sites. The agency sent more 4.04 million emails with up-to-date information.

E-cards were one of CDC most innovative tools, the agency created more than 100 free Health-e-Cards (or “electronic greeting cards”) to send to friends, family, and co-workers. During 2009, there were 59,889 e-cards sent. The most viewed e-card, with 48,961 views, was called Flu Prevention for Health Professionals that had the message “Get a flu vaccine. Your patients are counting on you.”

As I said, every one of these would be impressive in a vacuum. But
when taken together, they demonstrate the true power of a
comprehensive social media outreach campaign.