Indexed on: 14 Jul '12Published on: 14 Jul '12Published in: PloS one
In recent years, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) has increased its efforts to use its annual conference to inform and educate the public about kidney disease. Social media, including Twitter, has been one method used by the Society to accomplish this goal. Twitter is a popular microblogging service that serves as a potent tool for disseminating information. It allows for short messages (140 characters) to be composed by any author and distributes those messages globally and quickly. The dissemination of information is necessary if Twitter is to be considered a tool that can increase public awareness of kidney disease. We hypothesized that content, citation, and sentiment analyses of tweets generated from Kidney Week 2011 would reveal a large number of educational tweets that were disseminated to the public. An ideal tweet for accomplishing this goal would include three key features: 1) informative content, 2) internal citations, and 3) positive sentiment score. Informative content was found in 29% of messages, greater than that found in a similarly sized medical conference (2011 ADA Conference, 16%). Informative tweets were more likely to be internally, rather than externally, cited (38% versus 22%, p<0.0001), thereby amplifying the original information to an even larger audience. Informative tweets had more negative sentiment scores than uninformative tweets (means -0.162 versus 0.199 respectively, p<0.0001), therefore amplifying a tweet whose content had a negative tone. Our investigation highlights significant areas of promise and improvement in using Twitter to disseminate medical information in nephrology from a scientific conference. This goal is pertinent to many nephrology-focused conferences that wish to increase public awareness of kidney disease.