Okay-Pop Followers Helped COVID-19 Public Well being Messaging Go Viral


Three years in the past, as a part of the general public well being messaging in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Well being Group launched the Put on A Masks marketing campaign on social media. Nevertheless, regardless of the advantages to public well being, mask-wearing shortly turned a extremely politicized and divisive situation throughout the globe.

However the marketing campaign gained spectacular traction after WHO Director-Basic Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a tweet on X, the social media platform recognized on the time as Twitter, on August 21, 2020, thanking BTS, a South Korean Okay-pop group, for supporting the mask-wearing public well being follow as a part of the discharge of their new single, Dynamite.

Okay-pop followers with completely different ideologies and from all through the globe retweeted Tedros’ message, making it probably the most shared mask-wearing tweet.

Quote Fandoms can act as highly effective catalysts for on-line and offline collective motion. Attribution Ho-Chun Herbert Chang, assistant professor of quantitative social science

When well being officers and businesses similar to Tedros leveraged leisure teams like “#BTS” into their public well being messages on COVID-19, this generated 111 instances extra virality or retweets, in keeping with a brand new Dartmouth-led research.

The outcomes are revealed in On-line Social Networks and Media.

Picture Ho-Chun Herbert Chang, an assistant professor of quantitative social science, is the lead creator of the research. (Picture by Katie Lenhart)

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities well being businesses usually turned targets of partisan politics that challenged public well being messages,” says lead creator Ho-Chun Herbert Chang, an assistant professor of quantitative social science at Dartmouth. “If authorities officers and opinion leaders can leverage entertainers who’re perceived as impartial third-parties, this creates a strong driving drive for getting a public message out.”

“By way of our research, we needed to find out if social media nonetheless has the ability to function a democratizing drive because it did in 2010,” says Chang.

Social media was perceived as such in the course of the Arab uprisings in 2010 and 2011, when pro-democracy protestors took to social media to talk out towards the authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

“However after Brexit in 2016, when the UK formally voted to go away the European Union and the Cambridge Analytica knowledge breach in 2018, folks turned fairly pessimistic in the direction of social media and its lightning pace unfold of misinformation as research reported on how social media can undermine democracy,” says Chang.

The researchers centered on one easy query: Who was the largest voice on social media driving public well being practices, significantly, mask-wearing?

Utilizing the biggest and most complete public COVID-19 dataset on Twitter, the researchers analyzed 7 million tweets on mask-wearing. The crew utilized pure language processing to extract the tweets from a dataset of three.5 billion tweets after which carried out a social community evaluation to determine how the tweets journey by means of the social community. In addition they checked out using Okay-pop particular hashtags: #BTS and #BTSArmy, in addition to BlackPink and Twice, the 2 different hottest Okay-pop teams on Twitter.

The findings present that leveraging the recognition of BTS was a part of the WHO’s communications technique on COVID-19 public well being messaging.

The 16 distinctive tweets by well being officers containing BTS, most of which had been tweets by Tedros, generated practically 234,600 retweets. As compared, Tedros’ 2,140 different tweets that didn’t point out BTS yielded 282,650 retweets. The 16 tweets mentioning BTS packed practically the identical punch (84% of the retweet worth) as that of the two,140 tweets with out Okay-pop. So, tweets mentioning BTS garnered 111 instances extra virality or retweets.

The crew additionally investigated the charges of mask-wearing tweets with and with out BTS in all international locations that use Twitter, which included assessing the speed of tweets in a rustic relative to its inhabitants.

Tweets with Okay-pop noticed an enormous uptake in Western international locations, with the U.S. on the high. Nevertheless, the rise of virality between retweets with Okay-pop over these with out Okay-pop was largest within the world south, together with in Southeast Asia and South America, which because the researchers clarify, are areas which might be usually underserved by Western-based world organizations, whereas the West had a modest enhance. The retweet knowledge confirmed Vietnam had a 3,840% enhance (38.4 instances extra virality), South Korea a 3,190% enhance, Philippines a 1,290% enhance, Peru a 1,080% enhance, and Argentina an 845% enhance. In distinction, the U.S. had a 56% enhance and the UK had a 28% enhance.

Picture This map illustrates the share of elevated viral boosts of COVID-19 public well being tweets mentioning BTS, by state. (Determine by Ho-Chun Herbert Chang)

For BTS-related tweets within the U.S., the largest viral boosts by proportion had been noticed in South Dakota (52%), North Dakota (41%), Mississippi (39%), Missouri (39%), Utah (37%), Louisiana (37%),Wisconsin (36%), and Nebraska (33%), most of that are heartland states.

As a part of the evaluation, the researchers examined customers’ political diets (left, middle, and proper) and the timelines of customers, which enabled them to plot a retweet community of customers earlier than and after the Aug. 21, 2020, tweet by Tedros over a four-month span.

Picture Community of customers by political eating regimen who retweeted #WearAMask earlier than (on left) and after the WHO director-general’s tweet referencing BTS on August 21, 2020. (Determine by Ho-Chun Herbert Chang)

Whereas left-leaning customers dominated the community, the outcomes confirmed that use of the #WearAMask hashtag by right-leaning customers elevated considerably after BTS’ look on the United Nations Basic Meeting.

Aside from Okay-pop, tweets mentioning Eric Ding, chief of the COVID Response Activity Pressure on the New England Institute and Gray’s Anatomy, the American medical drama, had been the 2 different hottest drivers of mask-wearing messaging.

“There may be numerous criticism over hashtag activism; nonetheless, to assist South Korea’s COVID-19 reduction efforts, BTS followers donated cash and ticket refunds from BTS live shows cancelled because of the pandemic, exhibiting that the organizing potential of fandoms shouldn’t be underestimated,” says Chang.

“Fandoms can act as highly effective catalysts for on-line and offline collective motion,” says Chang. “They will generate interventions at a world scale.”

Becky Pham and Emilio Ferrara on the College of Southern California, Los Angeles, additionally contributed to the research.