UBC Undergraduate Research

How Can We Use UBC Recreation Social Media as a Successful Health Promotion Tool Knapton, Sammy; Thandi, Harjot; Nelson, Hannah; Sajian, Sadaf


The purpose of this study was to explore the social media usage of undergraduate students with the intent of providing UBC Recreation with findings that will help them improve their social media platforms and better promote health to students during the current pandemic. Past research suggests social media is an increasingly cost-beneficial route to disseminating health-related information to diverse populations (Neuhauser & Kreps, 2003). Out of 10 studies included in a systematic review of online social networks and health behavior changes, 9 reported significant improvements in some aspect of health behavior change (Maher et al., 2014). Platforms with extensive research in regards to health behaviors and promotion efforts include Facebook, Twitter, and in more recent years Instagram (Al-Eisa et al., 2016; Edney et al., 2018). We endeavored to further examine the media platforms Facebook and Instagram, while also contributing to newer research on Tiktok. We obtained data by distributing an online survey to undergraduate UBC students. This study had a mix of open and closed-ended survey questions pertaining to health behaviors and social media usage. All close-ended survey questions were statistically analyzed using the analysis and reporting tools of the Qualtrics software. Further descriptive statistics included histograms, graphs, and charts to visually represent the data. The survey yielded 46 survey responses after the exclusion of UBC Recreation employees. The results indicated that the current activity level of students was below the WHO recommendation for physical activity in adults (World Health Organization, 2020); less than 35% of students participated in more than three hours of physical activity in the past week (Appendix C, Figure 2). This indicates a need for further health promotion within the student community and despite UBC Recreation’s current efforts, the promotional material is not reaching much of the student body. It was shown that 30.95% of participants had reported never seeing promotional material from UBC Recreation, or alternatively, 19% of participants only saw promotional material once (Appendix C, Figure 5). Lastly, 82.93% of participants reported they are most likely to take fitness-related advice from Instagram, 12.2% said they would be likely to take advice from TikTok and 4.88% would be likely to take advice from Facebook (Appendix C, Figure 8). Based on the results of the survey the following suggestions were made to UBC Recreation to increase their social media health promotion efforts. The first recommendation is to maintain the consistency of quality posts while using incentives-based draws or events to get students to follow the UBC Recreation social media accounts. By offering incentives to follow these accounts, it could increase engagement and lead to students actually receiving the content being created. The ideal target for the incentive-based events is incoming students that would expose themselves to UBC Recreation’s content throughout their undergraduate degree. Secondly, we recommend the use of short format virtual tours of the different facilities. Our research has shown that Instagram is the most widely used app we studied, but short videos may be adapted to each social media platform. Facilities to showcase include the aquatic center, the ice rink, the ARC, the SRC (including the BirdCoop, Dojo, Studio, and Gymnasium), and the outdoor sports fields. The final recommendation is that UBC Recreation conducts longitudinal studies of their social media accounts. By observing their social media accounts over time and recording responses to different posts and programs, they have the potential to see trends and utilize that information to plan for even further research into marketing their programs effectively. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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