I’m mostly surprised the blaring New York Times headline “Facebook Could Be Associated With a Longer Life, Study Finds” wasn’t trending on its namesake social media site on Tuesday. That could have to do with “real news” pushing it out of the way, but it was the No. 6 “most viewed” Times article that day.
This oddity that the SEPTA strike and a fatal bus crash in Baltimore were ranking higher on a social media site than the stories listed on the Times site is not lost on me — a daily Facebook user who’s written for the Times. But what else I know from being an avid Facebook News Feed reader is that health-related content gets shared regularly and widely, so what Jonah Engel Bromwich wrote for the science section of the Times will make the rounds.
As for the upshot of what he wrote, it basically says that people who are social online tend to be social in reality, which means that they’re happier and will live longer. That offline behavior could be good news for healthcare marketers, because health-related content readers may do something about what they read. And here’s an idea — going to the doctor may keep them alive longer, right? So seeing content from healthcare marketers there may help both parties.
What the Study Shows Healthcare Marketers About Social
Healthcare marketers can look for Facebook users with lots of friends. Users who accept more friendship requests are likely happier and more social people than those who send out a lot of requests, according to the study appearing in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research with the sexy title of “Online Social Integration Is Associated With Reduced Mortality Risk” says bluntly, “People who have stronger social networks live longer.”
If the Facebook users with lots of friends are tagged in photos showing offline interaction with friends and family, that illustrates they have healthy social networks and are more likely to live longer.
Counterintuitively, “likes” below statuses mean the parties may not spend time together offline.
If they mostly message, it’s better if those online talks show “moderate levels of online social interaction.” [Author’s note: The study does get into definitions of “moderate” and what small and large friend groups look like. Please check out the image below.]
What may healthcare marketers find among the sadder Facebook users with fewer friends and photos?
“Social support and integration studies tend to find stronger relationships between social support and cardiovascular-caused mortality than cancer-caused mortality,” reads the research, “and past work on substance abuse and suicide leads us to expect the largest effects for these causes.”
And that’s what the study actually found after comparing “12 million social media profiles against California Department of Public Health vital records.”
Why does this research contradict previous findings that heavy social media use is unhealthy?
“Skeptics will note that Facebook itself was closely involved with the paper,” writes Bromwich. “William Hobbs, 29, a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University, worked at Facebook as a research intern in 2013. Another of the paper’s authors, Moira Burke, worked on it in her capacity as a research scientist at Facebook.”
The study authors say Facebook didn’t interfere with their work.
Cleveland Clinic Example
One healthcare content marketing team seems to get it. Provide value and relevance. On Tuesday, the top post on Cleveland Clinic’s Facebook page was “Today is the day, Cleveland. Let’s go, Cleveland Indians! #RallyTogether #WorldSeries.”
That Oct. 25 post, obviously, has nothing to do with healthcare — other than sports relating to exercise, which is healthy. However, it does provide an emotional connection to Clevelanders who are hoping the city will be home to the new World Series Champions.
Really, none of the Cleveland Clinic posts have calls to action urging potential patients to come to the Cleveland Clinic. But that may be why nearly 2 million people like the page, while only about 200,000 declare they’ve visited the institution. Still, the health tips and tricks keep the marketer top-of-mind for patients who read about whether plucking out gray hair makes the situation worse.
What do you think, marketers? Is there other relevant content to discuss?
Please respond in the comments section below.