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A prominent advert at the European Society of Cardiology’s (ESC) Annual Congress proclaimed ‘Not your daughter’s Facebook’ above a line of social media icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, with the ESC’s informative, cardiologically orientated social media posts amalgamated underneath. The message was clear: social media is not just for teenagers, it also has a role in keeping doctors abreast of the latest developments.
The most used social media format by doctors is Twitter, which is ‘a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages’.1 These messages, called ‘Tweets’, have a maximum length of 280 characters and can have attached photos or videos. The tweets may contain ‘hashtags’ that allow users to search for information related to a particular topic. Tweets related to ESC Congress used the #ESCCongress hashtag, and this was promoted on screens between sessions to encourage participation. This article explores use of Twitter at the ESC Congress 2018. The methods used can be found in online supplement OE1.
Symplur2 analysis between 19 August and 2 September 2018 revealed #ESCCongress was used in 56 823 ‘tweets’ (Symplur combines tweets and retweets), had 12 156 participants and gained 408 million impressions, although Symplur is known to overestimate impressions.3 Symplur figures for the ESC 2017 Congress, which were heralded as a record for a healthcare conference, were stated as 306 million impressions and 49 000 tweets,4 although it is unclear if the time periods reviewed were the same. Analysis via TAGS5 revealed 12 047 tweets and 42 518 retweets, 4% difference in total to the Symplur analysis. Overall, 1 211 individual Tweeters were identified.
Analysis of the top Tweets (online supplement OE2) showed most Tweets contained conference-related education (81%), followed by Tweets promoting aspects of the conference (8%), with a minority being ‘social’ (5%). The remainder were not directly related to the conference (figure 1). The predominant language of Tweets was English (89%) followed by Spanish (10%).
The top 4 Tweeters were responsible for 30% of all Tweets. Only 5% of Tweeters were retweeted >100 times, and 22% of Tweeters were not retweeted at all (figure 2). A NodeXL chart demonstrates both the large number of isolated Tweeters, shown on the left, and also the huge number of connections (figure 3). Of the 10 most prolific CardioTweeters, 60% were men, and of the 10 most retweeted CardioTweeters, 80% were men.
Overall, these data show that at the ESC Congress, Twitter was predominantly used to share scientific content, a finding that mirrors research at other medical conferences6 7 and of general Twitter use by cardiologists.8 It supports the notion that Twitter use amplifies a conference’s reach. Benefits of Twitter use at meetings can be stated as providing notes for the Tweeters themselves for future review, key points for fellow delegates who had attended other sessions, worldwide dissemination of information and encouragement of debate of topics.6 7 9 10 It is also useful for networking, and at least two ‘Tweet-Ups’ were arranged at the ESC Congress to allow Twitter users to interact in person (online supplement OE3).
While some conferences have discouraged Twitter use,11 the ESC Congress has embraced it and by doing so increased its profile, allowed those unable to attend in person to do so vicariously and expanded the opportunities for debate.
To follow or join the debate at future conferences, or to help keep abreast of cardiology advances in between, sign up for a free Twitter account (www.twitter.com). Once signed up, you can choose to ‘follow’ accounts of interest. The accounts most followed by UK cardiologists are @ESCardio, @heart_BMJ, @BritishCardioSo and @ACCinTouch.8 Tweets from the accounts you have chosen will then form your own personalised cardiology newsfeed of breaking research articles and cardiological news: definitely not your daughter’s Facebook.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.