If ever there were a government agency totally up to speed on a trend outside its comfort zone, it would most certainly be the Center for Disease Control with its firm grasp on social media. And yes, even an organization with the word “disease” in its name can become a rather popular social butterfly in the online world.

CDC and social media

The CDC is active on Twitter (with 3 different profiles totaling more than 1 million followers), Facebook (with nearly 30,000 fans), MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, and (um yeah) even Second Life. They’ve also got blogs and podcasts on their own site as well as mobile applications.

What exactly is the CDC doing on all these social networks? Warning us about diseases, of course.

Here’s what the CDC is doing right:

1. They are active. Yes, they have a lot of profiles and one could assume most of these sit idle for months on end. But you may be surprised to find that they are updated regularly enough to keep users interested.

2. They stick to what they know. Diseases. No one knows diseases quite like the CDC so this is what they talk about and nothing else.

3. They are timely and relevant. Nothing requires timely distribution of information more than a health warning or food recall. Social media makes it possible for the CDC to quickly disperse information to millions.

4. They let us do their jobs. By providing followers, friends and fans with widgets, badges and banners that they can repost on their own pages, the CDC takes a load off its plate by letting us spread the word for them.

5. They provide useful information. The CDC doesn’t just talk at you. They provide engaging, relevant content to help educate the masses.

So if you don’t think social media “fits” your industry, take a look at the CDC’s approach and see if you can’t mimic it in a way that works for you.

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