Using Twitter to Understand Public Perceptions Regarding the #HPV Vaccine: Opportunities for Public Health Nurses to Engage in Social Marketing

Authors


Abstract

Objectives

Given the degree of public mistrust and provider hesitation regarding the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, it is important to explore how information regarding the vaccine is shared online via social media outlets. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the content of messaging regarding the HPV vaccine on the social media and microblogging site Twitter, and describe the sentiment of those messages.

Design and Sample

This study utilized a cross-sectional descriptive approach. Over a 2-week period, Twitter content was searched hourly using key terms “#HPV and #Gardasil,” which yielded 1,794 Twitter posts for analysis. Each post was then analyzed individually using an a priori coding strategy and directed content analysis.

Results

The majority of Twitter posts were written by lay consumers and were sharing commentary about a media source. However, when actual URLs were shared, the most common form of share was linking back to a blog post written by lay users. The vast majority of content was presented as polarizing (either as a positive or negative tweet), with 51% of the Tweets representing a positive viewpoint.

Conclusions

Using Twitter to understand public sentiment offers a novel perspective to explore the context of health communication surrounding certain controversial issues.

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