Enabling community through social media

Anatoliy Gruzd, Caroline Haythornthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Social network analysis provides a perspective and method for inquiring into the structures that comprise online groups and communities. Traces from interaction via social media provide the opportunity for understanding how a community is formed and maintained online. Objective: The paper aims to demonstrate how social network analysis provides a vocabulary and set of techniques for examining interaction patterns via social media. Using the case of the #hcsmca online discussion forum, this paper highlights what has been and can be gained by approaching online community from a social network perspective, as well as providing an inside look at the structure of the #hcsmca community. Methods: Social network analysis was used to examine structures in a 1-month sample of Twitter messages with the hashtag #hcsmca (3871 tweets, 486 unique posters), which is the tag associated with the social media-supported group Health Care Social Media Canada. Network connections were considered present if the individual was mentioned, replied to, or had a post retweeted. Results: Network analyses revealed patterns of interaction that characterized the community as comprising one component, with a set of core participants prominent in the network due to their connections with others. Analysis showed the social media health content providers were the most influential group based on in-degree centrality. However, there was no preferential attachment among people in the same professional group, indicating that the formation of connections among community members was not constrained by professional status. Conclusions: Network analysis and visualizations provide techniques and a vocabulary for understanding online interaction, as well as insights that can help in understanding what, and who, comprises and sustains a network, and whether community emerges from a network of online interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2796
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume15
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Keywords

  • Information and communication technology
  • Online community
  • Online social networks
  • Social media
  • Twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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