Purpose: Social media is an important form of communication because of its vast reach. Understanding what communication types are most effective can inform best practices around information dissemination. This study investigated social media communication during initial school closing and school re-entry planning phases of the COVID-19 pandemic to determine types of social media posts most effective at disseminating information, differences between phases, and sentiments relayed through comments.
Methods: A mixed method design was used to examine posts across two phases of the pandemic within a public Facebook group (roughly 1,500 members) created to promote school-based physical activity. Phase I comprised onset of school closures through release of national school re-entry guidelines. Phase II included release of guidelines through start of the school year. A total of 418 posts were made between March 1, 2020 – August 1, 2020. One-way ANOVAs were used to determine differences between content types and reactions, shares, and comments. Independent t-tests tested for differences in effectiveness between phases of the pandemic. Inductive analysis produced themes from comments shared during both phases.
Results: Posts about National and Local Policy and Guidance had more comments compared to posts about Civic Engagement. Feel Good Stories had the highest number of reactions. Group members reacted more to posts made during Phase II, which mainly consisted of Policy and Guidance (86%). Four major themes of Information and Resources, Personal Disclosures, Questions and Concerns, and Support for Educators emerged.
Conclusions: Using social media to share local and national guidance during a pandemic may be a promising strategy to disseminate information, encourage discussion, and provide member support. The interaction and communication in a Facebook group appeared to be a source of social and informational support for members during the onset and initial school reentry phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.