Catch the tweet to fight the flu: Using Twitter to promote flu shots on a college campus

J Am Coll Health. 2021 Sep 14;1-15. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2021.1973480. Online ahead of print.


Over the 2018-2019 flu season we conducted a randomized controlled trial examining the efficacy of a Twitter campaign on vaccination rates. Concurrently we investigated potential interactions between digital social network structure and vaccination status. Participants: Undergratuates at a large midwestern public university were randomly assigned to an intervention (n = 353) or control (n = 349) group. Methods: Vaccination data were collected via monthly surveys. Participant Twitter data were collected through the public-facing Twitter API. Intervention impact was assessed with logistic regression. Standard network science tools examined vaccination coverage over online social networks. Results: The campaign had no effect on vaccination outcome. Receiving a flu shot the prior year had a positive impact on participant vaccination. Evidence of an interaction between digital social network structure and vaccination status was detected. Conclusions: Social media campaigns may not be sufficient for increasing vaccination rates. There may be potential for social media campaigns that leverage network structure.

Keywords: Seasonal influenza; Twitter; randomized controlled trial; social network analysis; vaccination.