Framing Clinical and Translational Science: Examining the Strategic Social Media Communications of NCATS-funded CTSAs

Manuscript appearing in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, published online April 20, 2021.

Introduction: Many CTSAs focus their energy on operational aspects of running their hub but may not devote enough energy and resources toward branding and effective communication. However, CTSAs have an important mission when it comes to communicating effectively with their stakeholders through social media. Using framing theory as the underpinning, the purpose of this content analysis is to investigate the ways in which CTSAs use Twitter to communicate with their various stakeholders, the type of content they post, and the type of engagement their tweets garner.
Methods: We examined 349 tweets posted from January 2019 to January 2020 from 19 CTSA Twitter accounts (sampled from total 35 CTSA accounts). A thematic codebook was generated using tweets randomly chosen from the sample. Content analysis was performed on the entire tweet sample by four coders using the codebook (alpha = 0.89).
Results: CTSAs tweeted the most about events (29.8%), and the least about study recruitment (2.01%). Most tweets included images (59.31%) and hashtags (51.29%) but received little user engagement on the average post (average: 4.38 likes and 1.94 retweets). CTSAs tweeted most from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. PST and received the most engagement. Most CTSAs had a dedicated person (e.g., manager, coordinator) handling their communications.
Discussion: Our analysis shows multiple opportunities for CTSAs to engage with stakeholders and the public, as well as standardize and improve their Twitter communications to effectively reach a broader audience.