Tweeting the Headache Meetings: Cross-Sectional Analysis of Twitter Activity Surrounding American Headache Society Conferences

Marcus N. Callister, Matthew S. Robbins, Natalie R. Callister, Bert B. Vargas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: To describe and analyze Twitter activity associated with American Headache Society (AHS) conferences and evaluate the potential for Twitter to promote education and public outreach. Background: Many medical and scientific conferences have adopted Twitter as a method of promoting discussion among attendees as well as increasing visibility. Relatively little is known, however, about the composition of conference Twitter activity, the participants, and the impact on broader Twitter discussions. Methods: We analyzed Twitter data from 5 AHS conferences held from 2014 to 2016 using their respective hashtags. Using the Symplur Healthcare Hashtags open social media search platform, we gathered data on numbers of tweets, impressions, participants, and mentions during a 10-day period surrounding each conference, as well as samples of Twitter accounts participating. Prominent accounts were categorized as individual medical professionals, other individuals, host organizations, health-related organizations, medical centers, and industry by cross-checking their Twitter profiles and conference registration lists. Larger samples of accounts participating in the 2016 conferences were also obtained and categorized similarly, with individual person accounts classified by conference registration status. A related prominent hashtag (#migraine) was also identified and Twitter usage before, during, and after each conference was analyzed to evaluate the impact of conference activity on broader Twitter conversations. Results: Nineteen thousand nine hundred thirty-six tweets were generated across the 5 conferences, with 11,531 (58%) created by the Top 10 participating accounts in each conference, which were primarily individual medical professionals and host organizations. Thirty-two million six hundred eighty-three thousand impressions were generated across the 5 conferences, with 24,656,000 (75%) coming from the Top 10 participants in each, particularly host organizations and other individuals. An average of 331 accounts participated in each conference. The Top 10 mentioned accounts in each conference (consisting of 21 unique accounts with 14 accounts in the Top 10 across multiple conferences, primarily individual medical professionals) received a total of 15,093 mentions. Among 135 unique accounts participating actively in the two 2016 conferences, 39% were individual medical professionals, 38% other individuals, 16% health-related organizations (including the 2 host organizations), 4% medical centers, and 2% industry. From these samples, 34 of 70 (49%) and 43 of 66 (65%) individual person accounts participating in the Twitter discussion at each conference were not registered conference attendees, indicating substantial outside participation via Twitter. #migraine usage during conferences showed a significant increase from baseline in number of tweets (6080 in a 10-day period vs 3721, P <.0001) and participants (2332 vs 1830, P <.0001) but the increase was not significant for impressions (30,155 vs 25,361, P =.240). Conclusions: Consistent with the dynamics of Twitter conversations on other topics, AHS conference discussions featured a small group of accounts creating the bulk of content, with individual medical professionals and host organizations generating the largest shares of tweets and mentions while host organizations and other individuals produced the most impressions. Participating accounts were mainly individuals and health-related organizations, with more non-attendee participants than expected. Conference Twitter activity correlated with a significant increase in #migraine usage, suggesting a perceptible influence on the discussion of health-related topics beyond the conference itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-531
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Twitter
  • communication
  • congresses as topic
  • headache
  • information dissemination
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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