GP tweeting beyond the clinic: A social network analysis of the #RCGPAC 2018 conference

Background: Communication skills learnt working with patients and professionals are potentially relevant to communicating about general practice with the wider public, for example through social media. This study analysed social media messages from RCGP Annual Conference (#RCGPAC), 4-6 October 2018, Glasgow. Read my top tweets summary from the 2018 conference here. This work will be presented at the #RCGPAC conference in Liverpool (24-26 October 2019) and can be downloaded as a poster.

Methods: Tweets using #RCGPAC hashtag were extracted using NodeXL, analysed in Excel.

Results: There were 2,184 tweets using the #RCGPAC hashtag, from 378 accounts.

In addition to these tweets, however, there were 909 tweets posted that did not use the official hashtag, or did not use a hashtag at all (e.g. using the @RCGPAC Twitter handle instead). These tweets are likely to have been missed by many conference tweeters.

NodeXL map of #RCGPAC tweets about 2018 conference
NodeXL map of #RCGPAC tweets about 2018 conference

The connections between tweeters that used the hashtag are shown in Figure 1, demonstrating a “tight crowd” pattern. Figure 2 shows that most contributors were disseminators (retweeters) rather than producing new content of their own (tweeters).

Influencers of #RCPAC tweeting 2018.
Influencers of #RCPAC tweeting 2018.

The majority of replies did not use the conference hashtag. For example a tweet on fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS)  disorder generated over 100 replies from 60 tweeters (Figure 3), only 3 of which used #RCGPAC. Several branches of discussion went into considerable depth.  A wide range of opinions were expressed, with some heated exchanges.

Map of responses to tweet about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Map of responses to tweet about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Conclusions: Tweeting can capture the main messages from a conference, for a wider audience.  However, almost a third of #RCGPAC tweets in 2018 omitted the hashtag, lessening impact.

For 2019 conference: Use #RCGPAC hashtag in all tweets/replies.

Some topics will reach well beyond the conference hall and require different approaches on social media to those in the consulting room. If you wouldn’t say it on radio, don’t tweet it.

Tweet this poster using #RCGPAC & @gmacscotland (click link to autofill tweet).

Dr. Graham Mackenzie, GPST1, NHS Education for Scotland (@gmacscotland)

GP tweeting beyond the clinic - poster #RCGPAC 2019 by @gmacscotland
GP tweeting beyond the clinic – poster #RCGPAC 2019 by @gmacscotland