Creating engaging health promotion campaigns on social media: Observations and lessons from Fitbit and Garmin

Sarah Edney, Svetlana Bogomolova, Jillian Ryan, Tim Olds, Ilea Sanders, Carol Maher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
226 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The popularity and reach of social media make it an ideal delivery platform for interventions targeting health behaviors, such as physical inactivity. Research has identified a dose-response relationship whereby greater engagement and exposure are positively associated with intervention effects, hence enhancing engagement will maximize the potential of these interventions. Objective: This study examined the social media activity of successful commercial activity tracker brands to understand which creative elements (message content and design) they use in their communication to their audience, which social media platforms attract the most engagement, and which creative elements prompted the most engagement. Methods: Posts (n=509) made by Fitbit and Garmin on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over a 3-month period were coded for the presence of creative elements. User engagement regarding the total number of likes, comments, or shares per post was recorded. Negative binomial regression analyses were used to identify creative elements associated with higher engagement. Results: Engagement on Instagram was 30-200 times higher than on Facebook, or Twitter. Fitbit and Garmin tended to use different creative elements from one another. A higher engagement was achieved by posts featuring an image of the product, highlighting new product features and with themes of self-improvement (P<.01). Conclusions: Findings suggest that Instagram may be a particularly promising platform for delivering engaging health messaging. Health messages which incorporate inspirational imagery and focus on a tangible product appear to achieve the highest engagement. Fitbit and Garmin employed difference creative elements, which is likely to reflect differences in their target markets. This underscores the importance of market segmentation in health messaging campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10911
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Engagement
  • Physical activity
  • Social media
  • health promotion campaigns


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