Social Media and Healthcare Credibility: Information Sensitivity on a Global Platform

Thumbnail Image
Bowers, Mary Katherine
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The power of social media platforms is undeniable. Applications like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook have taken over modern society, integrating themselves into every facet of human life. Some implications of those integrations have been obvious, like decreased in-person socialization of teenagers. Other implications, especially regarding the interplay between social media platforms and human health communications, have been slower to realize and more difficult to witness. Social media platforms’ power stems from their ability to reach instantaneously millions, if not billions, of users in a split second. This power can be used to start conversations, spark trends, share information, spread news updates, or even market brands and products. Jin and Phua (2014) specifically name Twitter for having “strong potential as an interactive advertising platform,” which can be accredited to the site’s purpose: sharing the voices of its users. Twitter has ignited the spread of electronic word-of-mouth, or eWOM, defined as “online information sharing (i.e. advice and recommendation) in the form of non-commercial messages expressed between consumers about their experiences in buying goods and services . . . altering human interaction among millions of people worldwide” (Suki, Suki, Mokhtar, Ahmad, 2016). The use of the Internet and power of social media has also encouraged adults to seek information and answers to health-related questions online, rather than to visit a doctor’s office. Surveying 1,066 adults, the 2010 Harris Poll found that 88% of the American adults connected to the Internet looked for health-related information for themselves or others online (Leykin, 2012). Popular Twitter accounts distributing health-related information include organizations like the World Health Organization with 4.28 million followers, or television medical personalities, like Dr. Sanjay Gupta who boasts 2.56 million followers (Twitter, 2018). Bowers3 Since Twitter’s creation in 2006, there has been extensive research on users’ perceived credibility of published Tweets, suggesting that authority, bandwagon, and source proximity cues have direct ties to a users’ interpreted credibility of a tweet (Lee and Sundar, 2013). However, little attention has been paid to what action follows after a user establishes a tweet to be credible or not, especially when the Tweet contains high involvement health information. At the conclusion of their research, Lee and Sundar recommend future research to track how health information tweets “are received and shared, in order to generate specific predictions about the effects of particular attributes of tweets on content credibility, as well as higher-order outcomes such as a sense of community via social media.”
Social Media, Healthcare, Credibility, Involvement, Likelihood to Share, Marketing, Business