Twitter is a place where people open up to each other, receive support, and tell their stories. That’s what happened with the hashtag #HowIFightDepression. People came together and talked about what they do to get through dark times. They came together on Twitter to share their stories, lift each other up, and just as importantly, show that no one is alone.
This isn’t the story about one Tweet, but one about many. However, among the many shared around the #HowIFightDepression hashtag, one really caught people’s attention. It was a Tweet shared by @Tadasco42 who wrote about how he took a walk around town with his 7-month-old daughter.
“No stroller, I just carried her around cuz she likes to reach for the leaves on trees and bushes. She started to fight off sleep, then her head dropped to my neck & she was out. I'd never felt happier.”
The words he shared in this Tweet caught the attention of thousands who were engaging with the #HowIFightDepression. That’s only one small example of how the Health Community works on Twitter. It is a community that we focused on as a part of a groundbreaking research project2 into understanding the audience on Twitter in the UK. The study uncovered the communities that thrive on Twitter and drive conversation.
The study,1 using a combination of cutting-edge data science analysis and traditional market research, identified 75 subcommunities. It examined them to understand their motivations and how brands can best engage with them.
For good reason, health, and specifically mental health, has recently been very prominent in public debate. And because Twitter is the place where people start conversations that defy convention, it’s unsurprising that the scale of Health Twitter is extensive. In the same way that health issues vary greatly, so do the subcommunities that makeup Health Twitter, with people clustering around specific physical and mental health conditions personal to them.
Three in particular stood out, due to their size and interconnectivity. These include mental health, where hashtags like #HowIFightDepression thrive, and people rally to share experiences, learn about mental health, find advice, and support others in need.
Carers was another community. Here we saw how these people come together to support each other and exchange ideas, knowledge, and experiences.
Our third Healthy Twitter subcommunity was based around people who have or are connected with people who have learning disabilities. It brings together many different pockets of people. They come together to share, discuss, and support each other centred on specific learning disabilities, e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia, and autism.
Where do brands fit into Health Twitter?
1. Amplify awareness: When it comes to mental health in particular, brands can raise awareness with a simple Tweet or Retweet. This simple act helps amplify awareness of this vital issue.
2. Challenge perceptions: Brands have the power to challenge how people with disabilities (physical and mental) are represented in the mainstream media. The conversational power of Twitter makes it the place to spark debate and challenge public perceptions for the better.
3. Fund and support: Health Twitter wants brands to put their money where their mouths are, and back mental health charities out of their profits, not just the employee contribution.
However, people are wary of brands that superficially engage with mental health to improve their own public perception. Brands should commit fully, with genuine intent and be able to demonstrate integrity in their own working practices.
1. Jaywing, Join The Dots, and Twitter, 'Flocks — Uncovering communities on Twitter', June 2019, UK
2. To conduct the research, Twitter partnered with data-science agency Jaywing (@jaywingsays) and insight agency Join the Dots (@WeJoinTheDots) to crunch and analyse the data based on follower graphs and Twitter bios. It combined this work with online diaries from each community, in-depth interviews, cultural analysis, and a quantitative survey (total n=1,500) to ensure the most robust results.
The analysis uncovered the unique roles that Twitter plays within each community and the reasons people engage with their communities. For brands, the research identified what they can do to make sure that when they get involved with these communities, they can be successful.