Portuguese Citizens and Oncologic Institutions in Social Networks: An Analysis of the Beginning of this Interactive Communication (2009-2012)

Portuguese Citizens and Oncologic Institutions in Social Networks: An Analysis of the Beginning of this Interactive Communication (2009-2012)

Nuno Martins (Instituto Politécnico do Cávado e do Ave, Barcelos, Portugal) and Daniel Brandão (Instituto Politécnico do Cávado e do Ave, Barcelos, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/IJPHIM.2016010105
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Abstract

This paper aims to unravel the way Portuguese citizens and institutions have been adopting online platforms for social networks within the framework of solidarity and citizenship against cancer. The authors will present an analysis of the communication strategies implemented by institutions and their outcomes, aiming at clarifying the contribution that this type of participatory media have been giving to the oncological cause. In the Portuguese case, this activity occurs essentially among the most disseminated online platforms, namely: Twitter, YouTube, blogs and mostly on Facebook. The study focuses on the activity of renowned oncologic institutions on Facebook, as well as on various other online platforms for social networks. After the analysis and evaluation of the institutions' activity the authors present a set of recommendations that will help them in using social networks to citizenship missions in oncology.
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Introduction

Gradually, the Portuguese institutions, from various sectors of economic, social and cultural activity, were realizing the potential of Facebook for building a closer communication and interaction with their audiences. This platform of social networks is no longer just a place for people to socialize. The institutions discovered a strong communication tool.

The potential of this social website is due mainly to its growing number of users and their frequency. However, the main fear of the general institutions on Facebook is the risk of receiving unfavorable comments from the users. In the cancer area, this fear is also observed in the main institutions. In a previous research we have developed in the area of pediatric oncology (Martins, 2007) — even before this high popularity of online social networks —, we were able to recognize the institutions’ natural fears in having a presence in open spaces for discussion. However, the popularity of online social networks and the success of the first citizens’ movements for cancer causes made most of the oncologic institutions start realizing the potential that Facebook could have in the fight against cancer.

In this study, developed between September 2009 and September 2012, we have observed the daily activity of 23 Facebook pages of Portuguese oncologic organizations, including hospitals, associations and foundations. From this set, we selected eight renowned institutions, which are also the most popular on Facebook (see Table 1), namely: Associação Portuguesa de Leucemias e Linfomas1 (APLL), Laço Associação de Solidariedade Social2, Liga Portuguesa Contra o Cancro3 (LPCC), Instituto Português de Oncologia de Lisboa Francisco Gentil4 (IPO-Lisboa), Instituto Português de Oncologia do Porto Francisco Gentil5 (IPO-Porto), Associação Portuguesa Contra a Leucemia6 (APCL), Associação Acreditar7 and Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Mulher com Cancro da Mama8 (APAMCM). The aim was to analyze in detail the official fan pages of these institutions and the one of the LPCC’s project Linha Cancro9, which was this institutions’s first presence on Facebook.

Table 1.
Ranking about the popularity of Facebook pages of Portuguese oncologic institutions. Source: Own formulation, 2012.

The analysis of these nine pages corresponds to the period between the months of November 2011 and March 2012. The main purpose of this study was to investigate the type of activity that is done by the institutions, including the adopted communication strategy, the type of published information, the way they interact with the users and the level of interactivity, and finally the obtained results.

As you can see in the Table 2, the adherence to Facebook by these institutions took place, in most cases, in 2009 (including IPO-Porto, whose page analysis corresponds to a second page created in 2011 to replace a first one of 2009). The most recent adhesions are LPCC’s, which took place the following year, in September, and APLL’s in late August 2011. Regarding the number of fans, LPCC stands out significantly from other institutions, with more than half-million users. Despite having less than half of the LPCC’s page fans, the APCL’s page also stands out, with almost 155 thousand fans.

Table 2.
Pages of institutions analyzed in the study: The adhesion to Facebook, popularity and activity. Source: Own formulation, 2012.

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