Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia's First Nations communities: An analysis of reach, shares, and likes

Marita Hefler, Vicki Kerrigan, Anne Grunseit, Becky Freeman, James Kite, David P. Thomas

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Background: Facebook is widely used by Australia's First Nations people and has significant potential to promote health. However, evidence-based guidelines for its use in health promotion are lacking. Smoking prevalence among Australia's First Nations people is nearly 3 times higher than other Australians. Locally designed programs in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHOs) to reduce smoking often use Facebook. 

Objective: This study reports on an analysis of the reach and engagement of Facebook posts with smoking prevention and cessation messages posted by ACCHOs in the Northern Territory, Australia. 

Methods: Each service posted tobacco control content at least weekly for approximately 6 months. Posts were coded for the following variables: service posted, tailored First Nations Australian content, local or nonlocally produced content, video or nonvideo, communication technique, and emotional appeal. The overall reach, shares, and reactions were calculated. 

Results: Compared with posts developed by the health services, posts with content created by other sources had greater reach (adjusted incident rate ratio [IRR] 1.92, 95% CI 1.03-3.59). Similarly, reactions to posts (IRR 1.89, 95% CI 1.40-2.56) and shared posts (IRR 2.17, 95% CI 1.31-3.61) with content created by other sources also had more reactions, after controlling for reach, as did posts with local First Nations content compared with posts with no First Nations content (IRR 1.71, 95% CI 1.21-2.34). 

Conclusions: Facebook posts with nonlocally produced content can be an important component of a social media campaign run by local health organizations. With the exception of nonlocally produced content, we did not find a definitive set of characteristics that were clearly associated with reach, shares, and reactions. Beyond reach, shares, and likes, further research is needed to understand the extent that social media content can influence health behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16927
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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