Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis: The Office of Advanced Molecular Detection, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, manages a Twitter profile (@CDC_AMD). No prior study analyzed a CDC Twitter handle's entire contents and all followers. Our research questions were to categorize and quantify the tweets and followers of @CDC_AMD, and to test if attaching a photo or video would increase the number of retweets that a tweet published by @CDC_AMD would receive.
Methods: Data of @CDC_AMD were retrieved on November 21, 2016. All followers (N=809) were manually categorized. All tweets (N=768) were manually coded for contents and whether photos or videos were attached. Retweet count for each tweet was recorded. Negative binomial regression models were applied to both the original and the retweet corpora.
Results: Among the 809 followers, there were 210 (26%) individual health professionals, 94 (12%) non-governmental organizations, 27 (3%) government agencies' accounts, 27 (3%) accounts of media organizations and journalists, and 7 (1%) academic journals, with 444 (55%) categorized as miscellaneous. Forty-seven percent of @CDC_AMD's tweets (360/768) referred to the Office's website and their current research; 18% (135/768) referred to their scientists' publications. Eighty percent (69/86) of tweets retweeted by @CDC_AMD fell into the miscellaneous category. Forty-three percent (333/768) of the tweets contained photos or videos, while the remaining 57% (435/768) did not. Attaching photos or videos to original tweets increases the number of retweets by 37% (Probability ratio = 1.37, 95 CI, 1.13-1.67, P=0.002). Content topics did not explain or modify this association.
Conclusions: This study confirms CDC health communicators' experience that original tweets created by @CDC_AMD Twitter profile sharing images or videos (or their links) received more retweets.
Implications for research and/or practice: The current policy of attaching images to tweets should be encouraged.