“What do I say? How do I say it?” Twitter as a knowledge dissemination tool for Australian mental health research

Erin Madden, Tara Guckel, Sophia Garlick Bock, Zachary Bryant, Siobhan O’Dean, Katrina Prior, Smriti Nepal, Caitlin Ward, Louise Thornton

Mental health disorders are among the leading causes of disease burden worldwide, and research dissemination is receiving increasing focus. Twitter produces more mentions of scholarly research than any other alternative metric, yet there is a lack of guidance for how to use it. This study aims to answer the questions of ‘what do I say’ and ‘how do I say it’ by analysing a large sample of mental health research Tweets.

Three hundred mental health research Tweets were sampled from two large Australian mental health research organisations. Twenty-seven predictor variables were coded for each Tweet across five thematic categories. Variables were subject to inter-rater reliability testing, and regression analyses were conducted to determine associations with engagement outcomes of Favourites, Retweets, and Comments.

Less than half (n=12) of the predictor variables passed validity tests. Notably, conclusions could not reliably be drawn on whether a Tweet featured evidence-based information. Tweets were significantly more likely to be Retweeted if they contained multimedia. Tweets were significantly more likely to receive Comments if they focused on a specific population group. These associations remained significant when controlling for organisation.

These findings indicate that researchers may be able to maximise engagement on Twitter by focusing on specific population groups and enriching Tweets with multimedia content. Care should be taken to ensure users can infer which messages are evidence-based. Guidelines and an accompanying resource are proposed for researchers.