Date: 08 Jul 2014

Twitter hashtags for health: applying network and content analyses to understand the health knowledge sharing in a Twitter-based community of practice

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We utilize network and content analyses to examine the health-related conversations via Twitter hashtags. The study is an extension of the Leveraging Internet for Knowledge Sharing model to the new Twitter context. The findings show that the conversations involve the themes of knowledge sharing, nurturing relationship (community), and activism/advocacy/promotion (action). The conversation networks are decentralized, with advocates, healthcare providers, and average individuals being the central participants. Conversations flow most frequently between participants of the same healthcare roles, yet there is a considerable amount of conversations from healthcare providers to average consumers, and from average consumers to media. It is also noted that most conversations are not continuous or reciprocal. The findings and their implications are discussed in relation to the characteristics of communities of practice.