Can Twitter sentiment help us design better mass communication interventions for public health?A feasibility study focussing on skin cancer prevention

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Centre for Public Health

Abstract

Research has shown that social networks affect the transmission of healthy and unhealthy behaviours and Social Media (SM) have been shown to transmit moods and feelings However, few studies have, by design, harnessed the power of social networks within bespoke public health "e-interventions".

Whether such social media could be harnessed to support a successful public health intervention would depend on a range of practical and theoretical issues that have yet to be studied. The proposed study will address the following knowledge gaps to support the feasibility assessment of a Social Media-enabled intervention to promote "Care in the Sun", for the prevention of skin cancer, including: (i) would SM constitute an acceptable means for delivering such interventions in the population?; (ii) would people be willing to share across a SM platform like Twitter, personal issues (e.g. health behaviour/attitudes)?; (iii) what types of SM communication and health issues would attract the attention of the target population, e.g. would the use of certain types of visual images be acceptable/effective?; (iv) what behaviour change theories might plausibly underpin the intervention design. Twitter and Facebook are quite distinct SM platforms, the latter offering more potential to identify a user's characteristics and their expressed friendship networks.

We will develop a SM-enabled mass communication campaign designed to change attitudes and behaviours of adults related to reducing harmful Ultra Violet light exposure. This will be delivered using Twitter and in tandem we will explore the potential of Facebook for similar purposes.

The outcomes of this feasibility study will include: (i) changes in reported attitudes and behaviours related to UV exposure and skin cancer obtained from "before" and "after" population surveys; (ii) pre and post intervention usage of Twitter, social network architecture of Twitter messages, analyses of sentiments expressed within tweets towards the skin cancer prevention SM campaign and patterns of sentiment diffusion across the social network.

The study will help us learn lessons for using social media like Twitter in future public health campaigns.

Technical Summary

Previous "care in the sun" campaigns have had mixed success but most pre-date the social media (SM) era. Social media-enabled campaigns have the advantage of targeted messaging, at low cost and large reach but we know little about what in practice would determine their feasibility. Aim: To test the feasibility of designing, implementing and evaluating a bespoke SM-enabled intervention for skin cancer prevention. Stage 1: To undertake a review of public health guidance and interventions for skin cancer prevention to ascertain effective intervention components. Focus groups with stakeholders (n=3) and users (n=3) will consult on key design and implementation aspects. Following this a co-design workshop will lead to the development of a logic model. Stage 2: To develop, implement and evaluate the feasibility of a SM-enabled campaign using a quasi-experimental, interrupted time series with comparison study. A "cross-over" design permitting 30-days with one message "frame", an 8-week "washout" period, and a further 30-days of the SM campaign with a different message frame will be used. Social media responses will be tracked in two geographical areas within a subset of tweets (and Facebook posts), one area exposed to the NI "Care in the Sun" campaign, and Wales (which will not receive the specific SM campaign). Stage 3: A final workshop will identify lessons learned about how future SM campaigns and their evaluation might be mounted. Outcomes: (i) changes in reported attitudes and behaviours related to UV exposure and skin cancer obtained from "before" and "after" population surveys (n=1000); (ii) pre and post intervention usage of Twitter, social network topology of Twitter messages, analyses of sentiments expressed within tweets towards the skin cancer prevention SM campaign and patterns of sentiment diffusion across the social network architecture. If deemed feasible, the next stage will be to undertake a Phase II pilot trial.

Publications

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Hunter RF (2018) Ethical Issues in Social Media Research for Public Health. in American journal of public health

 
Description Northern Ireland Skin Cancer Strategy
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description A PhD studentship from the Department for the Economy (formerly the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL))
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Queen's University Belfast 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description Enabling Research Award
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation Public Health Agency (PHA) 
Department HSC Research and Development
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 12/2015
 
Description Academic Partnerships 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: Provision of Social Media content for analysis School of Psychology: collaborative efforts in development of content for the social media campaign
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science developed algorithms and provided analysis of Social Media data School of Psychology: Expertise in the area of psychology, particularly relating to emotion and sentiment
Impact Paper led by colleagues in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was accepted as an extended abstract at the Social Media and Society Conference, London 11-13th July. This paper was a multi-disciplinary collaboration with colleagues in School of Psychology and Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast
Start Year 2014
 
Description Academic Partnerships 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department School of Psychology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: Provision of Social Media content for analysis School of Psychology: collaborative efforts in development of content for the social media campaign
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science developed algorithms and provided analysis of Social Media data School of Psychology: Expertise in the area of psychology, particularly relating to emotion and sentiment
Impact Paper led by colleagues in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was accepted as an extended abstract at the Social Media and Society Conference, London 11-13th July. This paper was a multi-disciplinary collaboration with colleagues in School of Psychology and Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast
Start Year 2014
 
Description Adoreboard 
Organisation Adoreboard
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The team facilitated access to social media data
Collaborator Contribution Adoreboard is a spin out company from Queen's University Belfast with expertise in gathering, clearing and collating social media data.
Impact Through this collaboration, the team has retrieved Twitter data relating to the project
Start Year 2014
 
Description Cancer Focus NI 
Organisation Cancer Focus Northern Ireland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Through the project, utilising the Cancer Focus social media platforms for the study campaign, features on local radio and a national television documentary granted further awareness of their work.
Collaborator Contribution Cancer Focus provided their Social Media platforms as a host for the campaign during May-July
Impact Features on local radio (Cool FM) ITN public health documentary
Start Year 2014
 
Description PhD Studentship 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team are involved in the supervision of a PhD Studentship relating to this work
Collaborator Contribution This Studentship forges new and existing collaborations with the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Impact PhD studentship commenced in September 2015 comprising a multidisciplinary team from public health and computer science
Start Year 2015
 
Description Public Health Agency 
Organisation Public Health Agency (PHA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Through the project, recognising the partnership with PHA on social media, features on local radio and a national television documentary granted further awareness of their work.
Collaborator Contribution PHA acted as a champion for the project
Impact Features on local radio (Cool FM) ITN public health documentary
Start Year 2014
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation De Montfort University
Department School of Humanities
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation Open University
Department School of Engineering and Innovation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department School of Biological Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation Safefood
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation University College Dublin
Department School of Medicine and Medical Science
Country Ireland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department Centre for Gender History
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department Department of Geography & Sustainable Development
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social Media Ethics Collaboration 
Organisation University of Stirling
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborators attended a workshop on the Ethics of Social Media for Public Health Research. As a result of the workshop, we have drafted a paper which will be published later this year (2017)
Collaborator Contribution collaborators contributed to discussions at a workshop and in reviewing/commenting on a subsequent paper
Impact A paper is currently being circulated for comment among the collaborators and should be published by the end of the year (2017)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Social media for health promotion campaigns and behaviour change interventions {RH} 
Organisation Adoreboard
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Ruth Hunter and Prof Frank Kee have led a bid to the MRC PHIND scheme to investigate the feasibility of Twitter sentiment to help us design better mass communication interventions for public health. Prof Kee (PI) brings expertise in complex public health interventions and mixed methods evaluations. Dr Hunter provides expertise on examining the mediating effects of social networks on behaviour change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide expertise in cognition and emotion, communication, qualitative research, sentiment analysis, web data extraction, integration and mining, social media analysis, data analytics, machine learning and autonomous systems.
Impact Awaiting the outcome of a grant application to the MRC PHIND scheme.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Social media for health promotion campaigns and behaviour change interventions {RH} 
Organisation Cancer Focus Northern Ireland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Dr Ruth Hunter and Prof Frank Kee have led a bid to the MRC PHIND scheme to investigate the feasibility of Twitter sentiment to help us design better mass communication interventions for public health. Prof Kee (PI) brings expertise in complex public health interventions and mixed methods evaluations. Dr Hunter provides expertise on examining the mediating effects of social networks on behaviour change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide expertise in cognition and emotion, communication, qualitative research, sentiment analysis, web data extraction, integration and mining, social media analysis, data analytics, machine learning and autonomous systems.
Impact Awaiting the outcome of a grant application to the MRC PHIND scheme.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Social media for health promotion campaigns and behaviour change interventions {RH} 
Organisation Public Health England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Dr Ruth Hunter and Prof Frank Kee have led a bid to the MRC PHIND scheme to investigate the feasibility of Twitter sentiment to help us design better mass communication interventions for public health. Prof Kee (PI) brings expertise in complex public health interventions and mixed methods evaluations. Dr Hunter provides expertise on examining the mediating effects of social networks on behaviour change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide expertise in cognition and emotion, communication, qualitative research, sentiment analysis, web data extraction, integration and mining, social media analysis, data analytics, machine learning and autonomous systems.
Impact Awaiting the outcome of a grant application to the MRC PHIND scheme.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Social media for health promotion campaigns and behaviour change interventions {RH} 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Ruth Hunter and Prof Frank Kee have led a bid to the MRC PHIND scheme to investigate the feasibility of Twitter sentiment to help us design better mass communication interventions for public health. Prof Kee (PI) brings expertise in complex public health interventions and mixed methods evaluations. Dr Hunter provides expertise on examining the mediating effects of social networks on behaviour change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide expertise in cognition and emotion, communication, qualitative research, sentiment analysis, web data extraction, integration and mining, social media analysis, data analytics, machine learning and autonomous systems.
Impact Awaiting the outcome of a grant application to the MRC PHIND scheme.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Social media for health promotion campaigns and behaviour change interventions {RH} 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Ruth Hunter and Prof Frank Kee have led a bid to the MRC PHIND scheme to investigate the feasibility of Twitter sentiment to help us design better mass communication interventions for public health. Prof Kee (PI) brings expertise in complex public health interventions and mixed methods evaluations. Dr Hunter provides expertise on examining the mediating effects of social networks on behaviour change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide expertise in cognition and emotion, communication, qualitative research, sentiment analysis, web data extraction, integration and mining, social media analysis, data analytics, machine learning and autonomous systems.
Impact Awaiting the outcome of a grant application to the MRC PHIND scheme.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Centre for Public Health Communication and Engagement Committee 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The research fellow working on the study contributed to the School Communication and Engagement Committee, providing insight from the study findings with regard to use of social media for public engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Co-Design Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Two co-design workshops were held with policy makers, focus group participants, social media experts from public health and Cancer Research UK; pre- and post-intervention allow opportunity for participants to critique existing materials, to participate in designing the elements of a prototype intervention and also as a means of a feedback session to inform future work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Ethics and Social Media Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Collaborators from various Universities across the UK attended an ethics workshop, hosted by the Centre for Public Health, QUB to discuss the issues relating to ethics when using social media for public health research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description ITN Documentary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The current project was selected as a case study to be featured for an ITN documentary on public health. The documentary was showcased at a public health event and promoted via various media outlets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://itnproductions.wistia.com/medias/uqf4nsiz2i
 
Description Local Radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The project was featured on the radio station Cool FM during 'Stand Up to Cancer', a week dedicated to raising awareness of the various cancers common across Northern Ireland. This feature raised awareness of the campaign and generated discussion on social media
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Northern Ireland Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The event sought to review and revise the current skin cancer strategy and action plan for Northern Ireland, from the Department of Health. Not only are the outputs (social media posts) still being used by the regional cancer charity for their own social media activity but the findings from our research are being used to inform future media plans for the Care in the Sun media strategy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description STEM Translational Communication Center, University of Florida 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Aisling Gough was invited to the University of Florida by Professor Janice Krieger, Director of the STEM Translational Communication Center to give a seminar on this work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.ctsi.ufl.edu/files/2016/08/GOUGHflyer.pdf
 
Description Skin Cancer Social Media Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The study research fellow contributed to the Northern Ireland Social Media Group, reporting on the study progress and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Skin Cancer Strategy Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The study research fellow contributed to the Northern Ireland Skin Cancer Strategy Group, reporting on the study progress and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Sunbed Prevention Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The study research fellow contributed to the Northern Ireland Sunbed Prevention Group. The research fellow reported to the group, the findings from focus groups relating to sunbed use and on the study progress and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016