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The making of #CovidTwitter: who were the loudest Covid influencers and what did they say about the Covid-19 pandemic?

Jaworska, S. ORCID:, Goodman, M. ORCID: and Gibas, I. (2024) The making of #CovidTwitter: who were the loudest Covid influencers and what did they say about the Covid-19 pandemic? Social Media + Society, 10 (1). ISSN 2056-3051

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/20563051231222240


This study explores Covid-19 communications disseminated by the top 100 most followed Twitter profiles – what we call the Twitter influencing elite. Focusing on a critical period from January to July 2020, we conducted a quantitative and qualitative analysis of 6,602 tweets about Covid-19 produced by these Covid Influencers. The findings reveal that approximately two-thirds of the Covid-19 tweets in our sample originated from established global media organizations. While these sources were prominent, they were not the ‘loudest’ in terms of engagement and virality. That belonged to powerful politicians like Trump and Obama, popular singers such as Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, and business personalities like Elon Musk. What is more, our qualitative analysis highlights how the affordances of the digital space and the context of the pandemic were leveraged by these influential Twitter users to advance their own agendas. For instance, some blended health information and caring narratives with promotional appeals, while others, such as Elon Musk and Donald Trump, engaged in political agitation and/or anti-care discourses creating a staccato of conflicting messaging and mis/dis-information. These findings demonstrate that the Twitter space is as political and politicized as it is commercial and commercialized. We conclude that digital influencers and celebrities cannot just simply be used to produce communications during times of crisis as many across the study of health and medical communication have argued. The involvement by digital influencers and celebrities—much like the Covid Influencers we examined here –in spreading information must be critically scrutinized, considering the potential for mixed motives, agendas and informational and real world outcomes.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:114040
Uncontrolled Keywords:COVID-19, Twitter, health communication, influencers, anti-care discourse, social media, affordances, disinformation, political agitation, Trump, Obama, Musk


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