The 'who' and 'what' of #diabetes on Twitter

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Title: The 'who' and 'what' of #diabetes on Twitter
Authors: Beguerisse-Diaz, M
McLennan, AK
Garduño-Hernández, G
Barahona, M
Ulijaszek, SJ
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Social media are being increasingly used for health promotion, yet the landscape of users, messages and interactions in such fora is poorly understood. Studies of social media and diabetes have focused mostly on patients, or public agencies addressing it, but have not looked broadly at all the participants or the diversity of content they contribute. We study Twitter conversations about diabetes through the systematic analysis of 2.5 million tweets collected over 8 months and the interactions between their authors. We address three questions: (1) what themes arise in these tweets?; (2) who are the most influential users?; (3) which type of users contribute to which themes? We answer these questions using a mixed-methods approach, integrating techniques from anthropology, network science and information retrieval such as thematic coding, temporal network analysis, and community and topic detection. Diabetes-related tweets fall within broad thematic groups: health information, news, social interaction, and commercial. At the same time, humorous messages and references to popular culture appear consistently, more than any other type of tweet. We classify authors according to their temporal 'hub' and 'authority' scores. Whereas the hub landscape is diffuse and fluid over time, top authorities are highly persistent across time and comprise bloggers, advocacy groups and NGOs related to diabetes, as well as for-profit entities without specific diabetes expertise. Top authorities fall into seven interest communities as derived from their Twitter follower network. Our findings have implications for public health professionals and policy makers who seek to use social media as an engagement tool and to inform policy design.
Issue Date: 1-Jan-2017
Date of Acceptance: 16-Dec-2016
ISSN: 2055-2076
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Start Page: 1
End Page: 29
Journal / Book Title: Digital Health
Volume: 3
Copyright Statement: © 2017 The Authors.This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work as published without adaptation or alteration, without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)
James S. McDonnell Foundation
Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)
Funder's Grant Number: EP/I017267/1
Keywords: physics.soc-ph
Notes: 25 pages, 11 figures, 7 tables. Supplemental spreadsheet available from
Publication Status: Published
Open Access location:
Appears in Collections:Mathematics
Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics
Faculty of Natural Sciences

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