A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words: Public Engagement with the National Cancer Institute on Social Media

J Cancer Educ. 2017 Mar;32(1):155-157. doi: 10.1007/s13187-015-0901-5.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides pertinent information about cancer prevention, treatment, and research advancements that is considered objective and accurate. NCI's presence on social media is an example of a growing effort in promoting and facilitating audience engagement with evidence-based information about health and cancer. However, it is unknown what strategies are most effective for engaging audiences via this communication platform. To evaluate this important question, we analyzed data on posts, associated comments, and meta-data from official NCI Facebook page between July 2010 and February 2015 (end of data collection). Results show that audience engagement is associated with the format of cancer-related social media posts. Specifically, posts with photos received significantly more likes, comments, and shares than videos, links, and status updates. The findings have important implications for how social media can be more effectively utilized to promote public engagement with important public health issues.

Keywords: Audience engagement; Cancer research; Information dissemination; Social media.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research
  • Health Communication*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods
  • National Cancer Institute (U.S.) / statistics & numerical data*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Public Health
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Media / trends
  • United States