Digital and Social Media Impact of Zika Virus: Strategy Recommendations


There is increased search on Google for information about Zika virus, based on data supplied by Google Trends. Charleston, SC is leading the state geographically with increased Google search about the virus along with our neighboring state (Georgia) seeing an increased amount of search. Bottom-line, people are searching and seeking information.

Over the past few days, articles are being released by local South Carolina media outlets including two articles of note from the State Newspaper on Friday indicating 15 people in the State of SC have been tested along with an article in Anderson’s Independent Mail piggy backing off the same data. These articles are creating an uptick in search for content online in South Carolina.

This is what I am learning from these experiences:

  • Hospitals need a solid public facing content plan. This does not mean we need to start posting content, but start building a strategic communications plan that includes digital and social media along with media outlets.
  • Need a comprehensive plan to handle responses from media and public, including on social media. These means understanding the virus, understanding how the virus impacts South Carolina, and empowering member hospitals to be the ones how are thought leaders in the public face.

Here are the top five questions being asked on Google right now:

  1. What is Zika virus?
  2. Where is the Zika virus?
  3. Is Zika virus contagious?
  4. How long does Zika virus stay in your system?
  5. How is Zika virus spread?

Digital Strategy Recommendations (Dedicated Zika Content Page)
I have pulled together resources that might help us frame what the pubic is searching for online, creating opportunities to frame responses based on other hospitals and health care resources. I can see a whole section of a healthcare organization’s website dedicated to Zika with information for the public. This could be a combination of resources below based on content already created from credible resources.

This does not mean I am recommending going public with a part of the website immediately, yet recommending the creation of content in a unified spot on the website…and when ready, launch as a resource for member hospitals and the public. The following content can be leveraged or can serve as a guide for member hospitals to create something similar.

1 – Great video from WHO with question and answer video showcasing an epidemiologist answering the following questions on camera:

  • What is Zika virus?
  • What are the symptoms of the Zika virus disease?
  • Is there treatment for Zika virus disease?
  • Should I avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus is occurring?
  • What can I do to protect my family?

2 – Here is another great video from Healthcare Triage’s Aaron E. Carroll, MD, MS, a Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Research Mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine.

He discusses in great medical detail with consumer friendly graphics defining what the Zika virus is all about and whether we should or should not be concerned.

3 – There is also lots of connected conversation and Google search surrounding the connection between Microcephaly and Zika virus. Here is a great videos from WHO’s Dr. Anthony Costello who is the Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health:

He addresses these questions in the video:

  • What is Microcephaly?
  • As a pregnant woman, how would I know if my baby is affected?
  • What support would I need if my child has microcephaly?
  • What steps can I take to protect myself and my baby from Zika virus?

4- Here is a new video about the Zika virus from the CDC called “Zika Virus 101” with Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director:

She tackles the same questions with informed responses:

  • What is Zika?
  • Statistics of who will become ill if infected.
  • Symptoms of Zika virus disease.
  • How to avoid getting Zika?

5 – Here is a wonderful blog post from Seattle Children’s Hospital tackling many of the questions and concerns for parents. I can see numerous blog posts from member hospitals tackling each of the topic areas from this blog post link:

  • What is Zika?
  • Potential birth defects
  • Guillain-Barre from Zika
  • What is Dengue?
  • Risks from Dengue for pregnant women & newborns?
  • Testing for Zika when you are worried.
  • Recommendations for men and their pregnant partners.
  • Bottom line advice about Zika, dengue, and pregnancy.

6- I can also see hospitals and create and display similar to content to Harvard School of Public Health’s Zika in the News webpage: