Introduction: The objective of this study was to analyze the messages of influential emergency medicine (EM) Twitter users in the United States (US) during the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic by characterizing the themes, emotional tones, temporal viewpoints, and depth of engagement with the tweets.
Methods: We performed a retrospective mixed-methods analysis of publicly available Twitter data derived from the publicly available “Coronavirus Tweet IDs” dataset, March 3, 2020–May 1, 2020. Original tweets and modified retweets in the dataset by 50 influential EM Twitter users in the US were analyzed using linguistic software to report the emotional tone and temporal viewpoint. We qualitatively analyzed a 25% random subsample and report themes.
Results: There were 1315 tweets available in the dataset from 36/50 influential EM Twitter users in the US. The majority of tweets were either positive (455/1315, 34.6%) or neutral (407/1315, 31%) in tone and focused on the present (1009/1315, 76.7%). Qualitative analysis identified six distinct themes, with users most often sharing news or clinical information.
Conclusions: During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, influential EM Twitter users in the US delivered mainly positive or neutral messages, most often pertaining to news stories or information directly relating to patient care. The majority of these messages led to engagement by other users. This study underscores how EM influencers can leverage social media in public health outbreaks to bring attention to topics of importance.