Using Facebook to promote the uptake of colorectal cancer screening

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Background: The use of social media presents a unique opportunity for cancer screening programs to motivate individuals to get screened. However, we need a better understanding of what types of social media messages for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening are preferred. The objective of this study was to develop social media messages promoting CRC screening uptake to identify messages preferred by the target audience. Methods: We conducted a qualitative descriptive study and collected data through focus groups with Facebook users of screen-eligible age. Participants were presented with social media messages and asked to provide feedback. Messages were informed by the Health Belief Model, current evidence regarding screening communication and health communication and social media best practices. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed and analysis was completed by two independent coders. If messages generated sufficient discussion, we developed a recommendation regarding the use of the message in a future social media campaign. Recommendations included: strongly consider using this message, consider using this message, proceed with caution, and do not use this message. General considerations about social media campaigns were also noted. Results: A total of 45 individuals participated in six focus groups. We developed recommendations for 7 out of the 18 messages tested; 1 was classified as strongly consider using this message, 4 as consider using this message and 2 as proceed with caution. The data suggest that participants preferred social media messages that were believed to be credible, educational, and with a positive or reassuring tone. Preferred messages tended to increase awareness about CRC risk and screening and prompted participants to ask questions, and to want to learn more about what they could do to lower their risk. Messages that were viewed as humorous, strange or offensive or that had a negative or excessively fearful tone were less well received by study participants. Conclusions: Facebook users prefer social media messages for CRC that have a positive or reassuring tone, are educational, and that have a credible ad sponsor. Campaign planners should proceed with caution when considering messages that use humor or a fearful tone to avoid undermining their campaign objectives.




Ruco, A., Baxter, N. N., Jacobson, J., Tinmouth, J., & Llovet, D. (2022). Using Facebook to promote the uptake of colorectal cancer screening. BMC Public Health, 22(1).

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