"Something for us": Co-development of the COVID-19 Social Site, a web app for long-term care workers

J Med Internet Res. 2022 Aug 3. doi: 10.2196/38359. Online ahead of print.


Background: Improving confidence in and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters among long-term care workers (LTCWs) is a crucial public health goal, given their role in the care of the elderly and people at risk. While difficult to reach with workplace communication interventions, most LTCWs regularly use social media and smartphones. Various social media interventions have improved attitudes and uptake for other vaccines and hold promise for the LTCW population.

Objective: e aimed to develop a curated social web app (interactive website) to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence (three-arm randomized trial underway).

Methods: Following user-centric design and participatory research approaches, we undertook three steps: 1) content identification, 2) platform development, and 3) community building. A LTCW and stakeholder advisory group provided iterative input. For content identification, we identified topics of concern about COVID-19 vaccines via desktop research (published literature, public opinion polls and social media monitoring), refined by interviewing and polling LTCWs. We also conducted a national online panel survey. We curated and fact-checked posts from popular social media platforms that addressed the identified concerns. During platform development, we solicited preferences for design and functionality via interviews and user experience (UX) testing with LTCWs. We also identified best practices for online community building, like comment moderation.

Results: In the interviews (n=9), we found three themes: LTCWs 1) are proud of their work but feel undervalued; 2) have varying levels of trust in COVID-19 related information, and 3) would welcome a curated COVID-19 resource that is easy to understand and use. Desktop research, LTCW interviews and our national online panel survey (n=592) found participants are interested in information about COVID-19 in general, vaccine benefits, vaccine risks, and vaccine development. Content identification resulted in 434 posts addressing these topic areas, with 209 uploaded to the final web app. Our LTCW poll (n=8) revealed preferences for personal stories and video content. The platform we developed is an accessible WordPress-based social media web app, refined through formal (n=3) and informal UX testing. Users can sort posts by topic or subtopic and react to or comment on them. To build an online community, we recruited three LTCW 'community ambassadors' and instructed them to encourage discussion, acknowledge concerns and offer factual information on COVID-19 vaccines. We also set 'community standards' for the web app.

Conclusions: An iterative, user-centric, participatory approach led to the launch of an accessible social media web app with curated content for COVID-19 vaccines targeting LTCWs in the U.S. Through our trial, we will determine if this approach successfully improves vaccine confidence. If so, a similar social media resource could be used to develop curated social media interventions in other populations and with other public health goals.

Clinicaltrial: This effort is part of a broader clinical trial; ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05168800.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT05168800