How State Officials Are Trying To Use TikTok To Stop The Spread Of COVID-19

Aug 20, 2020

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas State Health Services is spending over $6 million to partner with social media influencers and enhance awareness of COVID-19. 

“We must social distance six feet apart, and wear our masks, and wash your hands, buddies,” North Texan Parker James told his followers, in a recent TikTok video with over 1 million views. 

Corey Basch, the department chair of public health at William Paterson University, has researched the effects of using social media to spread public health information like this. 

“What can not be overlooked is the impressive and widespread reach that this platform has,” Basch said of TikTok, which is approaching 1 billion users worldwide. “They’re called influencers for a reason; they influence people in their decisions and their behaviors.”

The campaign is still in its early stages, and there are very few studies on the effectiveness of TikTok, specifically. But for teenagers and young adults, social media campaigns are more accessible than typical public service announcements. 

“We are catching them, the adolescence, where they are, in a timely way, with a person that they respect and they want to see. We’re not looking at someone with a white lab coat explaining to us the scientific purpose behind wearing a mask,” Basch said. 

Regarding the $6 million investment, Basch says saving lives is a worthwhile endeavor.  According to the professor, “when the outcome that we’re talking about is illness, spread of disease, and potentially death, I don’t think you could even put a price tag on that.” 

Web story by Sarah Gabrielli.