Background. The use of social media for health information and peer support has grown significantly over time. According a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of U.S. adults utilize social media, up from 7 percent a decade earlier. A 2014 study reported 72 percent of adult internet users search online for health information, often focused on specific diseases or treatments, with 16 percent seeking others with similar health concerns. Twitter, a popular social media platform for information- and support-seekers, grew from 54 million monthly active users in 2010 to approximately 241 million in 2013.
To address the growing use of Twitter as an information and support portal, Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) decided to pilot a Twitter chat in 2014. The goals for the chat were to: (1) increase understanding of a breast cancer concern; (2) connect impacted individuals to one another in a supportive and safe online space; (3) offer practical resources for further exploration; and (4) increase LBBC's reach online among users interested in breast cancer.
Methods. LBBC staff researched best practices for Twitter chats. The topic of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) was chosen for LBBC's pilot program to coincide with Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The staff developed 7 questions and 10 alternates to deliver over 60 minutes. Using publicly available data from Symplur, hashtags were considered and developed. A panel was recruited of one medical oncologist, two advocates, and two women with TNBC. Panelists were encouraged to prepare Tweets in advance and, during the chat, to use assigned hashtags, correct medical inaccuracies, and attend to emotional concerns among chat participants. LBBC staff developed resource-rich tweets. The program was promoted over social media channels. At the end of the chat, participants were offered an incentivized opportunity to evaluate the program via a URL link to LBBC's existing survey instrument.
Results. Using the #TNBCchat hashtag, the March 3, 2014, program and activity the next week produced 234 tweets from 127 contributors, reaching 198,985 accounts. Participants wrote 118 tweet replies and retweeted 291 comments. Questions covered the definition of and treatments for TNBC, differences between metastatic and early-stage disease, unique emotional concerns, and methods to reduce recurrence risk. The three most popular tweets promoted the program, introduced panelists, and shared resources about PARP inhibitors.
Encouraged by the pilot program's reach and results, LBBC has delivered 20 Twitter chats as of June 2018. Topics have included nutrition, parenting, caregiving, and breast reconstruction. Over time, LBBC staff has refined the program model with the goals of increasing engagement, delivering more useful content, and driving users toward the evaluation.
Conclusions. Twitter chats allow nonprofit organizations to inexpensively utilize innovative technology to provide educational information to and foster a community of support among people impacted by breast cancer. By utilizing core organizational principles of appropriate program delivery, LBBC delivers practical content that may improve the quality of life of users in distant locations.
Citation Format: Guglielmino JE, Ormerod CL, Grillo AB, Sood SA. Twitter chats: Utilizing an innovative technology platform to offer education and tools to people with breast cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2018 Dec 4-8; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(4 Suppl):Abstract nr P6-16-06.