Learning the language of social media: A comparison of engagement metrics and social media strategies used by food and nutrition-related social media accounts

Amy M. Barklamb, Annika Molenaar, Linda Brennan, Stephanie Evans, Jamie Choong, Emma Herron, Mike Reid, Tracy A. McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Health promoters have been unable to reach and engage people on social media (SM) to the extent that food industry brands and lifestyle personalities have. The objective of this study was to identify the SM post strategies associated with higher engagement in nutrition and food-related posts using a retrospective content analysis. The six most engaging posts from both Facebook and Instagram’s 10 most successful nutrition and food-related accounts were analysed across four fields. Subjective and objective post strategies were coded on 736 posts, and associations with engagement were explored using the Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO). Lifestyle personalities recorded the highest absolute engagement, while health promoters recorded the highest engagement relative to follower count. Strategies associated with higher Facebook engagement included using hashtags and prompting engagement through announcements, while on Instagram, higher engagement was associated with higher caption counts, providing health information links, prompting engagement through strategies that require an action, and using humorous strategies. Strategies associated with lower Instagram engagement included reposted content, general encouragement to eat strategies, encouragement to exercise strategies, not inducing any emotion/hedonic sensations, and providing a negative tone. Health promoters should adapt SM posts to the different SM platforms and utilise strategies associated with higher engagement to engage with their audience on SM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2839
Number of pages23
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Facebook
  • Health promotion
  • Instagram
  • Nutrition
  • Social media
  • Young adults

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