Social Media

Critical to ensure pictures match the words in safety messages on social media, says study

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on January 03, 2021 Published on January 03, 2021

While posting messages to nudge people toward safe and healthy behaviour on social media, it is necessary to ensure that the pictures match the words, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Communication.

People are able to better recall safety messages when the pictures align with the words in such posts, the researchers found according to an official release by the Ohio State University.

"Many times, scientists and safety experts aren't involved in decisions about social media for health agencies and other organizations, and we end up seeing images that have nothing to do with the safety message or, worse, images that contradict the guidance," said lead author Liz Klein, an associate professor of public health at The Ohio State University.

"In this study, we were trying to understand how much those mismatches matter -- do people understand the message even if the picture isn't right? Does the picture really matter?" Klein said.

Researchers leveraged eye-tracking technology to gauge the attention 150 young parents paid to various posts. They then conducted various tests to better understand what they recalled from these messages.

As part of the study, the parents “were shown a trio of posts with matched imagery and text and three other posts with mismatched visual and written messages,” as per the report.

The parents spent longer, 5.3 seconds on posts where the words matched the imagery as compared to the 3.3 seconds on the mismatched posts on an average.

They were also able to better recall the messages from matched posts. The researchers after accounting for differences in health literacy and social media use among participants, found that witch each additional second spent on viewing the post, their safety knowledge scored was 2.8 per cent higher.

"With nearly 70% of adults reporting use of social media, and many parents using social media and other internet sources to keep current on injury prevention strategies, social media is a great opportunity to broadcast safety and injury prevention messages," said study co-author Lara McKenzie, a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.

"As more health organizations and public health agencies use social media to share health information with the public, the findings of our study underscore the need to ensure that the imagery and text in social media posts are aligned."

"If you want people to put their medicine up and out of reach of children, kids to wear their bike helmets or new parents to remember that babies should always go to sleep on their backs, alone and in a crib -- that's where matching matters. Maybe save the eye-grabbing stuff and the humorous posts for different purposes," said Klein.

"We need to pay more attention to how we communicate with the people we're trying to influence with health and safety guidance. All of us can do a better job of thinking about how we use our social media accounts to contribute to better public health," she said.

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Published on January 03, 2021
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