care hashtags. VCH’s Twitter handle
appeared on the organization’s website
and in email signatures.
Best practices for VCH’s Twitter
initiative included establishing a regular schedule for tweeting, varying the
content of tweets, “favoriting” positive
tweets about VCH, live-tweeting from
media events, and scheduling tweets at
peak user times to increase exposure.
The team also launched a content
strategy, meeting weekly with members from both branches of the communication department (public affairs
and corporate communication) to
determine how traditional and social
channels could support the organization’s priorities.
As the channel’s popularity increased,
more resources were required to manage it. VCH adopted HootSuite,
Canadian software that monitors conversations and manages workflow and
followers, in 2012. The following year,
the department dedicated some of the
resources of two new coordinators to
help maintain the channel.
By February 2013, VCH had
achieved success in these areas:
• Followers: VCH attracted 32 percent
more followers than the first provincial health authority to join Twitter,
which serves a population 70 percent
larger than VCH’s. The goal was to
build a social media community
larger than those of all other health
authorities in British Columbia.
• Media followers: 175 out of approximately 350 media outlets in British Columbia and Western Canada
followed VCH on Twitter, against a
goal of 117.
•Retweets and tweets: Retweets
increased 27 percent between February 2012 (99) and February 2013
(126)—121 percent higher than the
figures for two other leading health
authorities. Three to six tweets were
posted per weekday, with two to four
tweets posted on weekends (against a
goal of two per weekday).
• Response time: Within six months
of launch, every issue that arose on
Twitter regarding VCH services was
responded to within two to three
hours, against a goal of responding
within six hours.
• Traffic: From February 2012 to February 2013, traffic from Twitter to
VCH’s corporate website increased
by 213 percent, from 84 visits to
293 visits (against a goal of more
than 50 percent).
Through this project, VCH was able
to enhance its online presence and
engage a virtual community of stakeholders and influencers, securing its
position as a leading health authority
in British Columbia.
about the authors
Denise Leech and Tiffany
Akins are communication leaders at Vancouver
Coastal Health in Vancouver, British Columbia. Leech
has led the organization’s
external web strategy and
worked in partnership with
the public affairs team to
launch VCH’s social media
strategy. Akins, who previously spent six years working in broadcast television
news, is part of VCH’s public
affairs team and manages
communications for public
health and VCH’s social