We know that people turn to user-generated content on social media to research their health concerns, but how influential is this health information?
And, more importantly, how does this type of influence impact the health content we create?
Social media platform Reddit is emerging as a hugely popular online content engagement forum, for both user-generated and searched information. And, recent research has allowed us to better understand how users are engaging with health information found on Reddit.
Health information engagement with Reddit
With its capability of providing publically available and contextual information, Reddit has become a dominant social media platform. In 2015 there were 82.5 billion page views, with 73 million individual posts and over 725 million associated comments. 
Information engagement on Reddit is however a complex process. Health content is organised into many narrow and broad categories or “subreddits”. /r/AskDocs and /r/Health, for example, are active sub-communities for over 400,000 subscribers who discuss health and medical news topics.
Users are required to filter through subreddits on various topics and popular posts to find relevant health content.
Despite this, a recent US study published in the Journal of Health Communication found regardless of perceived credibility of information sought, both men and women aged over 18 years old had a level of trust in the content found on Reddit. 
Insightful study findings
The 389 adult users of the social media platform Reddit were surveyed to gauge how the health information they sourced influenced their own behaviour.
The study found their top five most searched health topics were exercise, nutrition, diet, mental health and stress.
The researchers performed data analyses of the participants and concluded, “users who seek health information on the platform are likely to enact the found information regardless whether or not they perceive the information to be credible.”
These findings suggest users on Reddit and are open to perspectives and ideas, especially when intentionally seeking information.
How can we apply the study findings to our professional practise?
Reddit’s ability to diffuse health information to a willing audience can be used to our professional advantage as a business tool.
Our social media presence doesn’t have to be restricted to our own online created accounts. Health writers can build their profile by sharing knowledge in their field of interest to an interested and engaged audience on various social media engagement platforms, like Reddit.
This means focusing on your niche in health and posting content on subreddits. If your content is considered relevant, users will ‘upvote’ your response, and your content could be the most viewed response for a post.
The Reddit sub-communities can include real and verified medical professors, clinicians and health experts who love contributing to health news discussions. By building a professionally credible profile, you could be considered an expert by many esteemed colleagues in your health niche.
Tips for building a professional profile on Reddit
- Ensure the content you post has the potential to be a top response. Your content should be relevant, without appearing like spam
- Avoid mentioning your company or endorsing any products
- Read how others post answers, it can help you understand how others handle the same issues. Most content is written in lay terminology supported only with personal narrative, statistics and jargon does not blend in well
- Try to posting content during peak times when others are online
By devoting a little extra time in your social media activity schedule to participate in posts on the social media platform Reddit, you can expand your engagement with online health consumers and colleagues, while becoming a valuable contributor who is generating positive health outcomes.
1. Reddit. 2015. Reddit in 2015 http://www.redditblog.com/2015/12/reddit-in-2015.html accessed 5 July 2018
2. Record A.R. Silberman W.R. Santiago J.E. et al. I sought it, I Reddit: Examining health information engagement behaviours among Reddit users Journal of Health Communication 2018; 23(5):470-6