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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Fairfax County Health Department
State: VA
Date Added: 12/09/2009
Themes: Communications - General H1N1
Issue Summary: Social Media Use During H1N1 response
Description of Issue(s): We made an early decision to provide live coverage of the clinics on Facebook, Twitter and our .gov site so people could know wait times, ask questions and share their experiences. We use social media tools to meet a larger strategy -- publish on platforms people are using everyday to connect with them and remain relevant. One primary reason we established social media sites was to meet needs during a local emergency or public health matter -- it's the local government's responsibility to fulfill this mission as outlined in the National Response Framework, etc. We need ways to reach people immediately through already established networks -- and in today's media world, we can't rely exclusively on the media to do that job.
Actions taken to address the issue(s): Over the last six weeks since we announced our first clinic, we've had more than 1,500 people join us on Facebook and about 800 on Twitter. In a county of 1.2 million people, that's still just a small slice, but it's not about the numbers. Information in social networks can spread rapidly, so we assume our fans and followers have served as information ambassadors for us during H1N1 vaccination. We've also taken the time to listen to what people are saying/asking and addressing some of the hard issues with H1N1. Of course, one of the frustrations across the country has been availability. We took the time to post an extended note on Facebook explaining exactly why we've made some of the decisions we've made. Of course, some people appreciated the explanation while others disagreed with the methods, which is fine because there's no way to meet everyone's needs and we understand and wish we could do more, but everyone who wants the vaccine will eventually get it. Take a look at this note to see how we tried to communicate more in depth to people who really wanted this level of explanation that a short Facebook or Twitter update can't provide: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=298337780458&ref=mf

Finally, before H1N1 vaccination clinics started, we began surveying our fans and followers to gauge their levels of satisfaction with our use of social media, what they want to see more/less of and how we can make better use of the tools.

Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: The feedback about using these tools has been tremendously positive (as well as kudos on the actual clinics). All in all, our efforts at using these tools as part of a larger strategy have paid off, especially during this time of H1N1 vaccinations. I think our government has gained a little more trust and credibility with many of our residents because of our social media use.

Fairfax County's YouTube Channel

Fairfax County's Twitter Page

Fairfax County's Facebook Page

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