Viruses Going Viral: Impact of Fear-Arousing Sensationalist Social Media Messages on User Engagement

Khudejah Ali, Khawaja Zain-ul-abdin, Cong Li, Lisa Johns, Ayesha Aziz Ali, Nick Carcioppolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social media presents a promising yet competitive communication landscape for health practitioners and organizations during the rapid spread of an emerging infectious disease. The current study examined the association between the level of fear-arousing sensationalism and user engagement in 800 Facebook posts regarding the 2016 Zika virus outbreak. Results revealed that the majority of nonnews posts completely lacked sensationalist elements, and that user engagement increased significantly as the level of fear-arousing sensationalism increased from low levels. We discuss the potential value of message design that can engender an appropriate level of public concern and increase user engagement on social media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScience Communication
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • crisis communication
  • health communication
  • infectious disease
  • risk communication
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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