Holiday Food Safety Twitter Chat
Food is the favorite guest at every party—especially at holiday times. But food poisoning is the unwanted guest that you hope never makes an appearance. We invited food safety experts, celebrity chefs, and guest foodies to CDC's 2nd annual holiday food safety Twitter chat to share their best tips. We wanted our audience (anyone with an interest in food safety and healthy eating) to be able to create food experiences that are memorable—but for the right reasons.
After the chat, we found that we had learned as much as we had shared and confirmed that social media is an effective tool for public health messaging. Here's a recap:
New faces and old friends. Twitter is a new frontier for some; but many are experienced users—including CDC. Twitter increases CDC's ability to spread public health messages to potentially new audiences but works best when it is part of a health communication strategy.
First impressions. The opening message on preventing food poisoning guided a conversation that ultimately involved 859 participants and generated 2,901 tweets and retweets in a one-hour chat. CDC and partners strategically shared food safety and healthy eating messages by using predetermined topics to ensure a focused and lively conversation.
Short and to the point. With multitasking and not enough hours in the day, people want timely information—especially if it will make their lives easier and healthier. In one hour, CDC shared 196 food safety tidbits—cooked up in easy-to-understand, short messages (140 characters or less).
Snowball effect. The Twittersphere quickly picked up on our chat (in Twitter talk, that's called "trending," and soon our conversation was joined by more food safety fans. What started with a nucleus of about 30 partners expanded when followers of our partners and guests joined the chat. Then, the followers of the followers started chatting (are you following this?) and before the chat had ended, we had a reach of 8.4 million folks—all interested in food safety.
Meaningful messengers. By inviting partners who are experts in their field, we strengthened the food safety messages, shared actionable takeaways that empowered consumers, and tapped into a potentially new audience. For instance, followers of a celebrity chef might have received a CDC food safety tweet that they ordinarily wouldn't have seen, but did, because the chef was participating in the chat.
Real-time chatter and instant feedback. Preparing holiday foods safely might have been the starting topic, but when someone introduced "using raw eggs in holiday recipes," the conversation shifted in that direction. This shift indicated a strong interest about a very particular topic—raw eggs. With Twitter, we can listen and collect feedback in real time. This enables chat leaders, as well as participants, to ask and answer questions and respond quickly.
Looking forward by looking back. Social media venues, like Twitter, provide opportunities to quantify the impact of the chat. These numbers, or metrics, show how many people were directly or indirectly touched by the messages, who made up the audience, and what information they wanted to know. Looking back on a chat informs public health communicators on strategies for the next social media campaign.