To Retweet or Not to Retweet: Understanding What Features of Cardiovascular Tweets Influence Their Retransmission

J Health Commun. 2018;23(12):1026-1035. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2018.1540671. Epub 2018 Nov 7.


Twitter is one of the largest social networking sites (SNSs) in the world, yet little is known about what cardiovascular health related tweets go viral and what characteristics are associated with retransmission. The current study aims to identify a function of the observable characteristics of cardiovascular tweets, including characteristics of the source, content, and style that predict the retransmission of these tweets. We identified a random sample of 1,251 tweets associated with CVD originating from the United States between 2009 and 2015. Automated coding was conducted on the affect values of the tweets as well as the presence/absence of any URL, mention of another user, question mark, exclamation mark, and hashtag. We hand-coded the tweets' novelty, utility, theme, and source. The count of retweets was positively predicted by message utility, health organization source, and mention of user handle, but negatively predicted by the presence of URL and nonhealth organization source. Regarding theme, compared to the tweets focusing on risk factor, tweets on treatment and management predicted fewer retweets while supportive tweets predicted more retweets. These findings suggest opportunities for harnessing Twitter to better disseminate cardiovascular educational and supportive information on SNSs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Health Communication* / methods
  • Humans
  • Social Media* / statistics & numerical data