Aim: Social media has transformed the interaction between healthcare professionals and consumers, yet research of its use in dietetics is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of dietetic user networks on use of social media and test the applicability of a social media metrics tool to determine influential users.
Methods: An online survey about social media use and practices based on the scientific literature was developed and implemented online with dietitians. Feasibility of a social media metrics analysis was conducted via Twitter using the NodeXL metrics tool to determine influential dietetic networks based on four measures of network centrality (betweenness, eigenvector, closeness and degree).
Results: The survey (n = 340) revealed social networking sites were the most widely used (by user) (n = 282) and micro-blogging was the most regularly used (by frequency of use). Among respondents who used social media in a professional capacity (n = 130), the greatest benefit was communicating internationally and remotely while the delivery of health care was of least benefit. The majority of respondents (87.3%) indicated their primary efforts were to maintain e-professionalism. Time restraints (18.6%) and not knowing where to start (18.6%) were common barriers to use. Highly influential connections between users were observed from network visualisations of dietitians in Australia and the United States.
Conclusions: Professional use of social media among dietitians needs to be monitored over time for shifts of influential networks. Influential users from key networks can be identified from metrics analyses and should be engaged via professional bodies to upskill new users.