Social networks are an important tool for understanding a community and mobilizing it for health improvement. New research literature has brought increased attention to the role that social networks can play in population health, and the growing use of community-engaged health promotion and research has brought to the fore the potential for social networks to support collective action for health improvement. Moreover, the emergence of electronic social media has diversified the ways in which networks can be formed and engaged. “Networking,” whether in person or electronically, is not the same as creating, sustaining, or engaging a community; if done incorrectly, it can undermine rather than support collaborative efforts. The principles laid out in this primer must be applied to the use of social networks just as they should be to all engagement efforts.
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