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UNTAPPED? THE POWER OF SOCIAL NETWORKS AND SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS TO PROMOTE BREASTFEEDING

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For the first time, researchers have taken a ‘social network’ approach to studying breastfeeding information on social media. Looking beyond what is posted about breastfeeding on Instagram and Facebook, they explored how breastfeeding information flows on Twitter – and from whom.

Their main findings were both startling and encouraging:
• Using #breastfeeding as a search term could result in a third of the material being pornographic in nature – possibly deterring those seeking breastfeeding advice or support.
• Analysis of data from 3,800 users identified 59 unique influencers who included researchers, lay individuals and company representatives.
• The influencers most effective at connecting people together are not those with the most followers or celebrities – instead, they are often company representatives and lay people.
• Lay people without academic or clinical backgrounds are the most effective in spreading science news related to breastfeeding – not the scientific community.

“We are very excited to have identified influencers based on actual online interactions on social media. Partnering with these influencers and implementing targeted social network-based interventions will expand the arsenal of strategies available to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding,” says lead author, Dr. Sara Moukarzel, Department of Education Studies and the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence, University of California San Diego.

Details have just been published by Maternal and Child Nutrition in this open access article, “Breastfeeding Promotion on Twitter: a social network and content analysis approach,” with support from the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation.