CDC has 4,589,663 Twitter followers and 1,678,384 Facebook fans

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), a federal agency which saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish its mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.  It uses fear to motivate citizens to avoid health threats, by showing real videos, like the one above, of people who have suffered from cancer, due to smoking.

The CDC provides content for use by other health advocates and promotes health messages itself over social media, leveraging the power and high citizen utilization of the internet and smart phones.  The CDC has become a model for other government agencies in this usage of social media.  Its social media home page looks nothing like one would expect a government site to appear; it is an outstanding example of what is possible.

The social media dashboard below gives a picture of its social media channel volume, although the dates lag the present.


In 2009, the CDC shifted strategies to leverage social media.  The chart below shows the success trajectory.  What did it do to get this kind of success?  Some of the success methods are highlighted below:

  • It leveraged its human networks of existing health advocates and teachers with outstanding tools, like the social media toolkit for health communicators.
  • It created curiosity and eagerness with the CDC tip of the week, which was often picked up and rebroadcast by mainstream media, again leveraging existing influencers, such as the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe, and the major TV network news shows.
  • It created “Test your health IQ” games to create competitive fun for viewers.


Rather than commanding viewers to all head to the main home page, it wisely created multiple profiles, each with a specific purpose and target market.  You can see below that the 4th highest following CDC Twitter profile is targeted at disseminating information about influenza.


The CDC is a government agency that  performs like a top private company, accountable for measurable results which it transparently displays on its website; innovating with new ideas; pushing the limits with shock ads; leveraging social media and mainstream media; and leveraging government employees, educators, and other health advocates.





  1. emmaharney21 · ·

    This is a great post! This is a great example of a government entity that is not lagging far behind for profit business. This reminds me of @fernaneq presentation on Boston 311! We consider government to be slow, bureaucratic, and inefficient. While this seems to be true in many cases, we do have instances (like these) where innovation in a digital space is occurring. Both of these cases have incredible social impact. The CDC is able to get more information to the public through social media than was possible before. I thought your point about the multiple profiles was interesting. My immediate reaction is that it may be confusing for users to interact with the organization in this fragmented way. Your point made me reconsider. I agree with your point that they were able to target a more specific market as a result. I really enjoyed your post and I hope more government organizations follow in their path!

  2. Really interesting post. I think a lot of people would agree that when they think of the CDC, social media expert doesn’t come to mind. Creating different profiles is definitely the move, as most people probably don’t visit on the daily just to check out the latest influenza news. It’s an extremely effective way to reach different demographics – there are many people passionate about specific areas within health and illness, so it makes sense to have a more targeted approach. I’m really impressed at their meticulous management of social media channels and am glad that an important topic like health and disease is getting the attention it deserves.

  3. fernaneq4 · ·

    As I was reading this, all I could think of was the Walking Dead. As we know, I’m a big fan of big data but I’m also a big fan of WebMD. I live with a nurse and she’s constantly diagnosing me and giving me check ups and were both on WebMD looking up “extreme exhaustion” quite frequently. I bet thats searched a lot more frequently on college campuses! It makes sense that they should be able to target the places based on what outbreaks they believe are occurring (Google Flu Trends: and really it’s all about educating the public and responding as quick as possible. Because of these technology pushes and marketing, we won’t have the Walking Dead (one can only hope).

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post. As a person with an interest in Health and Wellness, and a previous employee of HHS, it was interesting and refreshing to see how the government is starting to leverage social media. Thinking more about this topic- it seems as if this is almost a necessity for agencies such as CDC who deal with disease processes around the world. As we have learned in class, social media and digital business is immediate. It seems like a perfect avenue to inform the public of disease outbreaks, or travel advisories, or nature disaster. Leveraging a platform such as Twitter will let the public know of time sensitive and critical information. It was interesting to note the successes that they have had so far in the market as well. Furthermore, CDC’s use of Twitter may be helpful in remote areas where they have cellular service, etc but do not have good access to health care or health services. Overall, great post! Very Interesting!

  5. adawsisys · ·

    This was a very interesting post. It seems like using social media as a tool to create awareness has become essential. I wonder if the CDC funded the development of their social media presence internally, or if they were granted extra funds or given donations to develop it. The idea to create separate accounts each targeting a specific concern or need is a very good idea. This provides the public with exactly the information they need, eliminating the unnecessary extra tweets. With quality over quantity the public is more likely to notice and read the tweets that are important to them.

    1. I think the funding came from our tax dollars. Separate Twitter profiles seems to be a successful method for the CDC, although I’m not sure it’s a universally good idea.

  6. What a cool post! I never thought about how much work the CDC puts into their social media presence to spread awareness and educate the public. It does seen like this is an organization that can strongly leverage social media, and they’re doing an awesome job at it. I checked out and their posts are incredibly timely and informative. The first few tweets are about dispelling the myth that mosquitos aren’t dangerous in the fall, kids confusing Halloween candy with medicine, and how “scary” eye infections can be if left untreated! They use really eye-catching infographics with links for further information. Also, there’s a tab on the side that says “In times of crisis, this account helps share critical information with Twitter Alerts. Be prepared.” As we’ve discussed in a few different classes, many of us get our news from social media, particularly Twitter, rather than traditional news outlets. Maybe we should all start following @cdcemergency as well!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Katie. You found some great examples in their social media, that I didn’t see. I agree that the CDC should be a news source we view.

  7. Great example! I really like success stories from companies/ organizations other than the ones we usually think of (that, and I got my Ph.D. about 2 blocks from the CDC).

    1. If only the innovative ways would propagate through the rest of the federal government.

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