Informational value of visual nudges during crises: Improving public health outcomes through social media engagement amid COVID-19

Anton Ivanov, Zhasmina Tacheva, Abdullatif Alzaidan, Sebastian Souyris, Albert C. England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this study, we conceptualize and empirically evaluate how large-scale organizations can utilize the informational value of visual nudges on social media to promote safety among users and thus improve public health outcomes in the context of the coronovirus desease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) pandemic. We construct a unique panel dataset combining data collected from multiple public and proprietary sources. To operationalize visual nudges from user-generated content, we engage in extensive manual classification of images collected from Instagram (IG), Twitter (TW), and Facebook (FB). To examine the relationship between visual nudging and COVID-19 positivity, we rely on a combination of econometric and epidemiological models. We find that when institutional actors share more images containing mask-related information on IG, their COVID-19 positivity rates decrease by up to 25%, on average. Also, given the fragmentary evidence behind FB and TW effects, our results provide suggestive evidence of the “boundary condition” of the visual nudge effect. Finally, empirical evidence indicates the dynamic and curvilinear effect of visual nudges on positivity over time, such that the informational value of visual nudging is most prominent if communicated 3 to 5 weeks ahead of time, on average. Our results demonstrate the informational value of visual nudges communicated through pertinent social media channels, as well as their capacity to improve public health outcomes. This suggests the feasibility of institutional actors using social media engagement to promote safe behaviors. We conclude by discussing how our findings may be used to develop more effective communication strategies regarding public perceptions of mask use and other relevant safety measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2400-2419
Number of pages20
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • epidemic control
  • health communication
  • informational value
  • nudge theory
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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