Social Networks' Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Spain: Health Media vs. Healthcare Professionals

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 21;17(14):5261. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17145261.


An increased use of social networks is one of the most far-reaching consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the traditional media, as the main drivers of social communication in crisis situations, individual profiles have emerged supported by social networks, which have had a similar impact to the more specialized communication media. This is the hypothesis of the research presented, which is focused on health communication and based on a virtual ethnography methodology with the use of social metrics. The aim is to understand the relationship established between the population in general and digital media in particular through the measurement of engagement. In this regard, a comparative study was carried out that describes this phenomenon over a period of six months on three social networks: YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, with a sample composed of specialized health media versus healthcare professionals. The results point to a new communications model that opens up a new space for agents whose content has a degree of engagement comparable to and even exceeding that of digital media specialized in health communication. The conclusions show that the crisis of the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the communication sector, creating new challenges for the communication industry, media professionals, and higher education institutions related to market demands.

Keywords: COVID-19; Instagram; Twitter; YouTube; communication; engagement; health media; health professionals; social networks.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19
  • Communications Media*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Networking*
  • Spain / epidemiology