News Coronavirus How health officials are going viral on corona-content to share safety messages

How health officials are going viral on corona-content to share safety messages

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Coronavirus-related posts by health officials on Twitter are more likely to be retweeted if they include video attachments, a new American study shows.

The researchers, from the University at Albany, believe their findings could help boost valuable communication about the pandemic.

As part of their study, the researchers analysed about 150,000 tweets shared by nearly 700 US public health agencies on Twitter between February and April to find out which ones were being shared the most.

Twitter is a popular social media platform where users can share a post from another user by ‘retweeting’ it on their news feed.

The more a tweet is retweeted, the more users see it.

During major crises like bushfires or pandemics, health agencies regularly use social media platforms to share important health advice with the general public.

But given misinformation about COVID-19 is running rampant online, it is even more important that the correct information is reaching as many people as possible.

While examining coronavirus-related tweets by health officials, the researchers looked at their posts’ content and structure, and used statistical modelling to understand which factors were likely to result in more retweets.

Their analysis found that a range of tweets promoting practical health advice, including the risks of COVID-19 and preventative measures, were linked with retweets, rather than any one topic standing out.

In the case of coronavirus, using exclamation points or presenting content in the form of a question did not appear to promote retweets – unlike other disasters in which such tactics helped, the researchers said.

Tweets that included video attachments were much more likely to be retweeted, especially if they included key words like ‘coronavirus’ or ‘symptoms’, plus hashtags.

The researchers claimed their new findings could help inform health agencies’ strategies to ensure their messaging is widely disseminated.

However, they added the impact of the tweet-boosting features identified in their study could change as the pandemic unfolds.

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