The introduction of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have made information gathering and sharing easy due to their interactive nature. These sites are allowing individuals and organisations to engage in conversations through unique interactive features, such as sharing videos and photos, commenting on Facebook or retweeting on Twitter (Park, Rodgers & Stemmle, 2011).
The term social media broadly describes online platforms which thrive on user-generated content. These platforms have functions which allow content creators to be consumers, and for consumers to be content creators; making information sharing very easy, compared to static websites or other mass media forms (Chou, Hunt, Beckjord, Moser & Hesse, 2009). Boyd and Ellison (2008, pg. 211) describe social networking sites as ―web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and thirdly, view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.‖
Even though there is a wide range of social media networking tools and platforms, according to Lipsman, Mudd, Rich and Bruich (2012), the most dominant is Facebook, with over 2.17 billion daily active users on average as at January, 2018 (Global Digital Report, 2018). In Ghana, about 4,900,000 of the population actively use Facebook (Internet World Stats, 2018). These social media sites are increasingly becoming popular with the average Ghanaian spending not less than three hours 30 minutes on the internet (Kemp, 2017).
Social Media for Health Purposes
Several organisations are adopting social media in their communication mainly because of the high growing rate of uptake among the public. These sites are also being adopted because of their interactive features such as feedback mechanisms and news feeds which enhance their promotional and branding activities by encouraging the repeat use of the site by visitors (Zarrella, 2009).
For health purposes, Scanfield, Scanfield and Larson (2010) observed that consumers, professionals and organisations have begun sharing knowledge and experiences, and are providing support for one another using social media networks. Similarly, consumers of health information in various online communities and on web forums admit that their participation on these platforms was providing them with effective emotional and informational support and aiding to initiate and sustain behavioural changes (Wing & Jeffery, 1999; Korda & Itani, 2013). These sites are gradually becoming a source of information on health care, and Facebook is the preferred source for those who use social media sites for health purposes (Dolan, 2011).
Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) remarked that even though organisations have adopted social media tools in their communication, particularly in the area of health, there are still gaps in how these communication tools could be deployed and used effectively to ensure both users and professionals benefit from them. Heldman, Schindelar and Weaver (2013) postulated that the potential for behaviour change with social media engagement exists, but there is the need for more inquiry to ascertain this possibility. This study is, in part, a response to that invitation.
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