Social media, including Twitter, potentially provides a route to communicate public health messages to a large audience. Simple measures can boost onward broadcast to other users ('retweeting'). This study compares the impact of a structured programme of social media activity in Scotland during 2016 (using #ScotPublicHealth hashtag) with previous years.
The Twitter search function was used to identify tweets between 2014 and 2016 inclusive. The first three tweets from each Twitter user were selected for each period. The number of retweets was used as a measure of impact. The quality of tweets was assessed by recording use of image, weblink (uniform resource locator or URL), mention of another Twitter user and/or hashtag, each of which have been shown to boost number of retweets.
The percentage of tweets with an image, URL and/or mention of another Twitter user increased during the period of study. The percentage of tweets retweeted during Scottish Public Health conferences increased from 43% in 2014 to 70% in 2016. The volume of tweeting also increased.
The quality and impact of tweets sent by the Scottish Public Health community was higher during 2016 than previous years. Conference tweeting remains an area for improvement.