social media.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: A Longitudinal Analysis of Social Media Use by Global Diabetes Researchers


Background: Engaging influential stakeholders in meaningful exchange is essential for pharmaceutical companies aiming to improve care. At a time where opportunities for face-to-face engagement are limited, the ability to interact, learn and generate actionable insights through digital channels such as Twitter, is of considerable value.

Aim: The aim of this study was to evaluate digital engagement among global diabetes mellitus researchers.

Materials and methods: We identified every global tweet (20,614,515) and scientific publication (44,135) regarding diabetes mellitus from 1 August 2018 to 1 August 2020. Through author matching we combined datasets, resulting in a list of digitally active scientific authors. Generalised linear modelling identified factors predicting their digital engagement.

Findings: Globally, 2686 diabetes researchers used Twitter to discuss the management of diabetes mellitus, posting 110,346 diabetes-related tweets. As Twitter followers increased, so did tweet frequency (p < 0.001), retweets (p < 0.001) and replies (p < 0.001) to their content. Publication count (overall/per month) and proportion of first/last authorships were unrelated to tweet frequency and the likelihood of being retweeted or replied to (p > 0.05). Those with the most academic co-authors were significantly less likely to tweet than those with smaller networks (< 50; p = 0.001). Finally, those publishing most frequently on specific themes, including insulin (p = 0.041) and paediatrics (p < 0.001), were significantly more likely to tweet about these themes.

Conclusion: Academic expertise and seniority cannot be assumed as proxies for digital influence. Those aiming to promote science and obtain digital insights regarding condition management should consider looking beyond well-known 'key opinion leaders' to perhaps lesser known 'digital opinion leaders' with smaller academic networks, who are likely to specialise in the delivery of highly specific content to captive audiences.

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