Unpacking the black box: How to promote citizen engagement through government social media during the COVID-19 crisis.
ABSTRACT: During times of public crises, governments must act swiftly to communicate crisis information effectively and efficiently to members of the public; failure to do so will inevitably lead citizens to become fearful, uncertain and anxious in the prevailing conditions. This pioneering study systematically investigates how Chinese central government agencies used social media to promote citizen engagement during the COVID-19 crisis. Using data scraped from 'Healthy China', an official Sina Weibo account of the National Health Commission of China, we examine how citizen engagement relates to a series of theoretically relevant factors, including media richness, dialogic loop, content type and emotional valence. Results show that media richness negatively predicts citizen engagement through government social media, but dialogic loop facilitates engagement. Information relating to the latest news about the crisis and the government's handling of the event positively affects citizen engagement through government social media. Importantly, all relationships were contingent upon the emotional valence of each Weibo post.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Effective risk communication about the outbreak of a newly emerging infectious disease in the early stage is critical for managing public anxiety and promoting behavioral compliance. China has experienced the unprecedented epidemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an era when social media has fundamentally transformed information production and consumption patterns. OBJECTIVE:This study examined public engagement and government responsiveness in the communications about COVID-19 during the early epidemic stage based on an analysis of data from Sina Weibo, a major social media platform in China. METHODS:Weibo data relevant to COVID-19 from December 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020, were retrieved. Engagement data (likes, comments, shares, and followers) of posts from government agency accounts were extracted to evaluate public engagement with government posts online. Content analyses were conducted for a random subset of 644 posts from personal accounts of individuals, and 273 posts from 10 relatively more active government agency accounts and the National Health Commission of China to identify major thematic contents in online discussions. Latent class analysis further explored main content patterns, and chi-square for trend examined how proportions of main content patterns changed by time within the study time frame. RESULTS:The public response to COVID-19 seemed to follow the spread of the disease and government actions but was earlier for Weibo than the government. Online users generally had low engagement with posts relevant to COVID-19 from government agency accounts. The common content patterns identified in personal and government posts included sharing epidemic situations; general knowledge of the new disease; and policies, guidelines, and official actions. However, personal posts were more likely to show empathy to affected people (?21=13.3, P<.001), attribute blame to other individuals or government (?21=28.9, P<.001), and express worry about the epidemic (?21=32.1, P<.001), while government posts were more likely to share instrumental support (?21=32.5, P<.001) and praise people or organizations (?21=8.7, P=.003). As the epidemic evolved, sharing situation updates (for trend, ?21=19.7, P<.001) and policies, guidelines, and official actions (for trend, ?21=15.3, P<.001) became less frequent in personal posts but remained stable or increased significantly in government posts. Moreover, as the epidemic evolved, showing empathy and attributing blame (for trend, ?21=25.3, P<.001) became more frequent in personal posts, corresponding to a slight increase in sharing instrumental support, praising, and empathizing in government posts (for trend, ?21=9.0, P=.003). CONCLUSIONS:The government should closely monitor social media data to improve the timing of communications about an epidemic. As the epidemic evolves, merely sharing situation updates and policies may be insufficient to capture public interest in the messages. The government may adopt a more empathic communication style as more people are affected by the disease to address public concerns.
Project description:Social networking sites offer an important means for increasing the accessibility and enabling new forms of health communication between the public and medical social influencers (MSIs). MSIs have a social presence and are perceived as a credible source of health-related information. A research gap, however, exists in understanding the communication strategies employed by MSIs and the factors driving the public to engage in health communication with MSIs. This study, therefore, developed a new conceptual framework incorporating health communication, dialogic and interpersonal communication by employing quantitative content analysis to examine public engagement with MSI communication on the largest microblogging site in China, Sina Weibo. The analysis yielded insights into how the usefulness of health-related information provided alongside the interactive dialogue and affective practices played an active role in engaging the public. The public sought health-related information primarily to address issues of concern for well-being and a high level of engagement in terms of online shares, likes, and comments was found. The use of multimedia made the site more appealing, resulting in likes while the expression of emotions by MSIs generated likes and comments. The need to connect with other online users and have a sense of community was reflected in engagement through sharing useful MSI posts by the public. By identifying influential MSIs on social networking sites, health information providers such as organizations and the government can raise awareness of health issues to foster a healthy lifestyle and contribute to better living in the community.
Project description:Being an interactive process, the success of risk communication needs to ensure the individuals' right to know and influence their attitudes and perceptions of risk. Ubiquitous social media have expanded risk communication channels and innovated ways of risk communication. At the same time, uncertainty also arises with the diversity and variety of social media. Taking the rainstorm disaster in China as an example, this study focuses on factors affecting the individuals' continuance intention of information seeking on Weibo (a social media platform similar to Twitter). Based on 377 valid respondents, this study applied an extended expectation-confirmation model (ECM), from which the results of partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) suggested that continuance intention is positively influenced by factors including effort expectancy, social influence, facilitating conditions, and satisfaction. Among them, satisfaction contributes the most, which helps maintain a balance between performance expectancy and continuance intention. Taking the individuals' continuance intention to seek information on Weibo as the clue, this research provides government agencies with practical advice on how to use social media for more efficient risk communication during disasters and establish emergency preplans to respond to natural disasters.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Social media has become increasingly important as a source of information for the public and is widely used for health-related information. The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has exerted a negative impact on dental practices. OBJECTIVE:The aim of this study is to analyze the nature and diffusion of COVID-19-related oral health information on the Chinese social media site Weibo. METHODS:A total of 15,900 tweets related to oral health and dentistry information from Weibo during the COVID-19 outbreak in China (December 31, 2019, to March 16, 2020) were included in our study. Two researchers coded 1000 of the total tweets in advance, and two main thematic categories with eight subtypes were refined. The included tweets were analyzed over time and geographic region, and coded into eight thematic categories. Additionally, the time distributions of tweets containing information about dental services, needs of dental treatment, and home oral care during the COVID-19 epidemic were further analyzed. RESULTS:People reacted rapidly to the emerging severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 threat to dental services, and a large amount of COVID-19-related oral health information was tweeted on Weibo. The time and geographic distribution of tweets shared similarities with epidemiological data of the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Tweets containing home oral care and dental services content were the most frequently exchanged information (n=4803/15,900, 30.20% and n=4478, 28.16%, respectively). Significant differences of public attention were found between various types of bloggers in dental services-related tweets (P<.001), and the tweets from the government and media engaged the most public attention. The distributions of tweets containing information about dental services, needs of dental treatment, and home oral care information dynamically changed with time. CONCLUSIONS:Our study overviewed and analyzed social media data on the dental services and oral health information during the COVID-19 epidemic, thus, providing insights for government organizations, media, and dental professionals to better facilitate oral health communication and efficiently shape public concern through social media when routine dental services are unavailable during an unprecedented event. The study of the nature and distribution of social media can serve as a useful adjunct tool to help make public health policies.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has posed an unprecedented challenge to governments worldwide. Effective government communication of COVID-19 information with the public is of crucial importance. OBJECTIVE:We investigate how the most-read state-owned newspaper in China, People's Daily, used an online social networking site, Sina Weibo, to communicate about COVID-19 and whether this could engage the public. The objective of this study is to develop an integrated framework to examine the content, message style, and interactive features of COVID-19-related posts and determine their effects on public engagement in the largest social media network in China. METHODS:Content analysis was employed to scrutinize 608 COVID-19 posts, and coding was performed on three main dimensions: content, message style, and interactive features. The content dimension was coded into six subdimensions: action, new evidence, reassurance, disease prevention, health care services, and uncertainty, and the style dimension was coded into the subdimensions of narrative and nonnarrative. As for interactive features, they were coded into links to external sources, use of hashtags, use of questions to solicit feedback, and use of multimedia. Public engagement was measured in the form of the number of shares, comments, and likes on the People's Daily's Sina Weibo account from January 20, 2020, to March 11, 2020, to reveal the association between different levels of public engagement and communication strategies. A one-way analysis of variance followed by a post-hoc Tukey test and negative binomial regression analysis were employed to generate the results. RESULTS:We found that although the content frames of action, new evidence, and reassurance delivered in a nonnarrative style were predominant in COVID-19 communication by the government, posts related to new evidence and a nonnarrative style were strong negative predictors of the number of shares. In terms of generating a high number of shares, it was found that disease prevention posts delivered in a narrative style were able to achieve this purpose. Additionally, an interaction effect was found between content and style. The use of a narrative style in disease prevention posts had a significant positive effect on generating comments and likes by the Chinese public, while links to external sources fostered sharing. CONCLUSIONS:These results have implications for governments, health organizations, medical professionals, the media, and researchers on their epidemic communication to engage the public. Selecting suitable communication strategies may foster active liking and sharing of posts on social media, which in turn, might raise the public's awareness of COVID-19 and motivate them to take preventive measures. The sharing of COVID-19 posts is particularly important because this action can reach out to a large audience, potentially helping to contain the spread of the virus.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Social media plays a critical role in health communications, especially during global health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is a lack of a universal analytical framework to extract, quantify, and compare content features in public discourse of emerging health issues on different social media platforms across a broad sociocultural spectrum.<h4>Objective</h4>We aimed to develop a novel and universal content feature extraction and analytical framework and contrast how content features differ with sociocultural background in discussions of the emerging COVID-19 global health crisis on major social media platforms.<h4>Methods</h4>We sampled the 1000 most shared viral Twitter and Sina Weibo posts regarding COVID-19, developed a comprehensive coding scheme to identify 77 potential features across six major categories (eg, clinical and epidemiological, countermeasures, politics and policy, responses), quantified feature values (0 or 1, indicating whether or not the content feature is mentioned in the post) in each viral post across social media platforms, and performed subsequent comparative analyses. Machine learning dimension reduction and clustering analysis were then applied to harness the power of social media data and provide more unbiased characterization of web-based health communications.<h4>Results</h4>There were substantially different distributions, prevalence, and associations of content features in public discourse about the COVID-19 pandemic on the two social media platforms. Weibo users were more likely to focus on the disease itself and health aspects, while Twitter users engaged more about policy, politics, and other societal issues.<h4>Conclusions</h4>We extracted a rich set of content features from social media data to accurately characterize public discourse related to COVID-19 in different sociocultural backgrounds. In addition, this universal framework can be adopted to analyze social media discussions of other emerging health issues beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project description:The COVID-19 pandemic zoonosis has determined extensive lockdowns worldwide that provide an unprecedented opportunity to understand how large-scale shifts of human activities can impact wildlife. We addressed the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on wildlife in Italy, the first European country that performed a countrywide lockdown, and identified potentially beneficial and negative consequences for wildlife conservation and management. We combined a qualitative analysis of social media information with field data from multiple taxa, data from citizen science projects, and questionnaires addressed to managers of protected areas. Both social media information and field data suggest that a reduction of human disturbance allowed wildlife to exploit new habitats and increase daily activity. The field data confirmed some positive effects on wildlife conservation, such as an increase in species richness in temporarily less-disturbed habitats, a higher breeding success of an aerial insectivorous bird, and reduction of road-killing of both amphibians and reptiles. Despite some positive effects, our data also highlighted several negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on wildlife. The lower human disturbance linked to lockdown was in fact beneficial for invasive alien species. Results from questionnaires addressed to managers of protected areas highlighted that the COVID-19 lockdown interrupted actions for the control of invasive alien species, and hampered conservation activities targeting threatened taxa. Furthermore, the reduction of enforcement could cause a surge of illegal killing of wildlife. The COVID-19 crisis, besides having deep socio-economic impacts, might profoundly affect wildlife conservation, with potentially long-lasting effects.
Project description:Introduction. Broadcasting a suicide attempt on social media has become a public health concern in many countries, particularly in China. In these cases, social media users are likely to be the first to witness the suicide attempt, and their attitudes may determine their likelihood of joining rescue efforts. This paper examines Chinese social media (Weibo) users' attitudes towards suicide attempts broadcast on Weibo. Methods. A total of 4,969 Weibo posts were selected from a customised Weibo User Pool which consisted of 1.06 million active users. The selected posts were then independently coded by two researchers using a coding framework that assessed: (a) Themes, (b) General attitudes, (c) Stigmatising attitudes, (d) Perceived motivations, and (e) Desired responses. Results and Discussion. More than one third of Weibo posts were coded as "stigmatising" (35%). Among these, 22%, 16%, and 15% of posts were coded as "deceitful," "pathetic," and "stupid," respectively. Among the posts which reflected different types of perceived motivations, 57% of posts were coded as "seeking attention." Among the posts which reflected desired responses, 37% were "not saving" and 28% were "encouraging suicide." Furthermore, among the posts with negative desired responses (i.e., "not saving" and "encouraging suicide"), 57% and 17% of them were related to different types of stigmatising attitudes and perceived motivations, respectively. Specifically, 29% and 26% of posts reflecting both stigmatising attitudes and negative desired responses were coded as "deceitful" and "pathetic," respectively, while 66% of posts reflecting both perceived motivations, and negative desired responses were coded as "seeking attention." Very few posts "promoted literacy" (2%) or "provided resources" (8%). Gender differences existed in multiple categories. Conclusions. This paper confirms the need for stigma reduction campaigns for Chinese social media users to improve their attitudes towards those who broadcast their suicide attempts on social media. Results of this study support the need for improved public health programs in China and may be insightful for other countries and other social media platforms.
Project description:BACKGROUND:In December 2019, pneumonia cases of unknown origin were reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Identified as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the number of cases grew rapidly by human-to-human transmission in Wuhan. Social media, especially Sina Weibo (a major Chinese microblogging social media site), has become an important platform for the public to obtain information and seek help. OBJECTIVE:This study aims to analyze the characteristics of suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients who asked for help on Sina Weibo. METHODS:We conducted data mining on Sina Weibo and extracted the data of 485 patients who presented with clinical symptoms and imaging descriptions of suspected or laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. In total, 9878 posts seeking help on Sina Weibo from February 3 to 20, 2020 were analyzed. We used a descriptive research methodology to describe the distribution and other epidemiological characteristics of patients with suspected or laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) infection. The distance between patients' home and the nearest designated hospital was calculated using the geographic information system ArcGIS. RESULTS:All patients included in this study who sought help on Sina Weibo lived in Wuhan, with a median age of 63.0 years (IQR 55.0-71.0). Fever (408/485, 84.12%) was the most common symptom. Ground-glass opacity (237/314, 75.48%) was the most common pattern on chest computed tomography; 39.67% (167/421) of families had suspected and/or laboratory-confirmed family members; 36.58% (154/421) of families had 1 or 2 suspected and/or laboratory-confirmed members; and 70.52% (232/329) of patients needed to rely on their relatives for help. The median time from illness onset to real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing was 8 days (IQR 5.0-10.0), and the median time from illness onset to online help was 10 days (IQR 6.0-12.0). Of 481 patients, 32.22% (n=155) lived more than 3 kilometers away from the nearest designated hospital. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings show that patients seeking help on Sina Weibo lived in Wuhan and most were elderly. Most patients had fever symptoms, and ground-glass opacities were noted in chest computed tomography. The onset of the disease was characterized by family clustering and most families lived far from the designated hospital. Therefore, we recommend the following: (1) the most stringent centralized medical observation measures should be taken to avoid transmission in family clusters; and (2) social media can help these patients get early attention during Wuhan's lockdown. These findings can help the government and the health department identify high-risk patients and accelerate emergency responses following public demands for help.
Project description:An increased use of social networks is one of the most far-reaching consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the traditional media, as the main drivers of social communication in crisis situations, individual profiles have emerged supported by social networks, which have had a similar impact to the more specialized communication media. This is the hypothesis of the research presented, which is focused on health communication and based on a virtual ethnography methodology with the use of social metrics. The aim is to understand the relationship established between the population in general and digital media in particular through the measurement of engagement. In this regard, a comparative study was carried out that describes this phenomenon over a period of six months on three social networks: YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, with a sample composed of specialized health media versus healthcare professionals. The results point to a new communications model that opens up a new space for agents whose content has a degree of engagement comparable to and even exceeding that of digital media specialized in health communication. The conclusions show that the crisis of the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the communication sector, creating new challenges for the communication industry, media professionals, and higher education institutions related to market demands.