Social media for population and public health researchers (webinar)


To develop skills needed by researchers to effectively convey their research to the media and general public using social media platforms.


  • Cameron Norman — Dr. Norman is the Principal of CENSE Research + Design and an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
  • Armine Yalnizyan (moderator) — Ms. Yalnizyan is Senior Economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, business commentator on CBC Metro Morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays and CIHR-IPPH Institute Advisory Board member.

Key points

  • Social media is different from traditional media because it allows for and gets its principal value from user engagement. Social media sites are different from other web technologies because they were created to allow for content sharing opportunities anywhere. Social media tools are designed for use by multiple platforms and can be accessed from desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.
  • Social media can give you a chance to access populations and groups that cannot be easily reached in other ways. It gives you insight about what people are talking about. By observing the way people behave and interact online, you can start to develop ideas and hypotheses for research. Twitter can let you know about breaking research outside of channels you usually use to find information.
  • Social media sites allow for real-time evaluation; if you’re giving a talk, organizing a conference or having a press release to roll out new policies, you can get instant feedback. Identifying Twitter hashtags in advance of an event makes it easy for people talking about that event to find each other.
  • Social media can be important for knowledge translation. Researchers can make and promote short videos about studies to increase exposure of their work and make their work as accessible as possible to increase its reach. Social media allows you to communicate and promote your work both with peers and colleagues. Research in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that tweeting about work has the potential to increase its impact and number of citations.
  • Researchers have a tendency to be secretive about and protective of their work but the more researchers share and engage users, the more input they will get.
  • It is possible to measure the success of your social media presence. Depending on what social media platforms you use, you can monitor number of contacts, the amount of content shared or number of references. There is also free online software that allows people to monitor and evaluate their social media presence. But these numbers should be used with caution because there is a difference between valuable and shallow interactions and a few valuable connections or interactions may be more desirable than many superficial interactions.



This webinar was hosted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Institute of Population and Public Health. The webinar aired in March 2013.

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