Objective: To identify who were social media active e-cigarette users, to compare the use patterns from both survey and social media data for data triangulation, and to jointly use both datasets to conduct a comprehensive analysis on e-cigarette future use intentions.
Materials and methods: We jointly used an e-cigarette use online survey (n = 5132) and a social media dataset. We conducted analysis from 3 different perspectives. We analyzed online forum participation patterns using survey data. We compared e-cigarette use patterns, including brand and flavor types, ratings, and purchase approaches, between the 2 datasets. We used logistic regression to study intentions to use e-cigarettes using both datasets.
Results: Male and younger e-cigarette users were the most likely to participate in e-cigarette-related discussion forums. Forum active survey participants were hardcore vapers. The e-cigarette use patterns were similar in the online survey data and the social media data. Intention to use e-cigarettes was positively related to e-liquid ratings and flavor ratings. Social media provided a valuable source of information on users' ratings of e-cigarette refill liquids.
Discussion: For hardcore vapers, social media data were consistent with online survey data, which suggests that social media may be useful to study e-cigarette use behaviors and can serve as a useful complement to online survey research. We proposed an innovative framework for social media data triangulation in public health studies.
Conclusion: We illustrated how social media data, combined with online survey data, can serve as a new and rich information source for public health research.