Objectives: We evaluated the social network structure of QuitNet, one of the largest online communities for behavior change, and compared its characteristics to other known social networks.
Methods: Using modern network analysis methods, we identified QuitNet members who were active during a 60-day period, along with their ties. We then derived multiple subgroups, such as key players and integrators, from connections and communication patterns.
Results: Among 7569 participants, we identified 103,592 connections to other members. Metrics of social network integration were associated with increased likelihood of being female, being older, having been in the system longer, and not smoking.
Conclusions: The QuitNet community is a large-scale social network with the characteristics required for sustainability of social support and social influence to promote smoking cessation and abstinence. These characteristics include persistence of members over time, heterogeneity of smoking status, and evidence of rich, bidirectional communications. Some of the influential subgroups we identified may provide targets for future network-level interventions.