#Vaccination: Identifying Influencers in the Vaccination Discussion on Twitter through Social Network Visualisation

By Sanawi, Jamali Bujang; Samani, Mus Chairil et al. | International Journal of Business and Society, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

#Vaccination: Identifying Influencers in the Vaccination Discussion on Twitter through Social Network Visualisation


Sanawi, Jamali Bujang, Samani, Mus Chairil, Taibi, Malia, International Journal of Business and Society


1.INTRODUCTION

For centuries, vaccination has been acknowledged as one of the most effective preventive measures against some deadly and infectious diseases. The introduction of vaccination in medical practice has managed to save many lives and it is considered as one of the most significant achievement in modern medicine (Kata, 2012; Mercadal, n.d.; Petts and Niemeyer, 2004). Apart from preventing certain diseases, vaccination also prevent the development of antibiotic resistance to some pathogen and able to protect individual from 'bioterrorism' attack (Andre et al., 2008).

In a study conducted by Davies, Chapman and Leask (2002), they found that the probability for parents to encounter an anti-vaccination website on the Internet is much higher than provaccination websites. There are numerous argumentative and rhetorical strategies that these websites often use when presenting their claims, which include denigrating scientific studies, endorsing poorly conducted studies that advocate anti-vaccination sentiments and the usage of conspiracy theories (Kata, 2012; Davies et al., 2002). The inclination of encountering vaccine critical websites on the Internet has raised some concern towards its effect on people's attitude towards vaccine intake. Betsch, Renkewitz, Betsch, and Ulshöfer (2010) have found that accessing vaccine-critical websites for 5 to 10 minutes do increase perception of risk of vaccinating and at the same time decreases the perception of risk of omitting vaccination. Nan and Madden (2012) also found that people who are exposed to negative blog's post on vaccination would held more negative attitude towards vaccination and reduced the intention to take vaccination.

In this study, the researchers aim to explore the discussion on issues related to vaccination on one of the most influential social media platforms, Twitter and try to identify the 'influencers' in this conversation. This paper will also highlight some of the subgroups that exist within the network where the influential individuals or organizations are at the center of attention.

2.SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE NETWORK ANALYSIS

Today, social media has become an important part of our daily lives. The platform has become ubiquitous and some of our important conversation happened on social media platform. As digital media are now increasingly connected with one another, Wellman (2001) argued that the network should not be studied in isolation because computer networks are inherently a social network that link people, organization and knowledge.

One of the most powerful and influential social media platforms is Twitter. According to Statista.com (2017), there are 328 million active Twitter users around the world as of the first quarter of 2017. Twitter also being dubbed as a type of micro blogging due to its restrictions to post only 140 characters and fewer. Murthy (2012) define micro blogging as an:

"Internet-based service in which (1) users have a public profile in which they broadcast short public messages or updates whether they are directed to specific user(s) or not, (2) messages become publicly aggregated across users, and (3) users can decide whose messages they wish to receive, but not necessarily who can receive their messages; this is in distinction to most social networks where following each other is bi-directional (i.e. mutual)".

All these features fit the description of Twitter being a versatile, accessible and valuable tool for conveying thought and idea in a global context (McLean, Braithwaite, Swaninathan, & Stewart, 2012). Previous studies have shown that the conversations occurred on Twitter network does have its own influence on user's opinion in regards to certain topics, brands or ideologies. In a study o n Twitter and branding, Jensen, Zhang, Sobel, & Abdur (2009) have found that Twitter can be an effective medium for companies and marketers to monitor customers' sentiments towards their brand and also competitors in near real time situation. …

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