Using Social Media Analytics to Understand What’s Driving Diabetes and Nutrition Discussion
According to Amy Campbell, award-winning nutritionist at the Joslin Diabetes Center, there are many misconceptions about what people with diabetes can eat. She states, for example, they do not have to eat different foods from the rest of the family, and goes to debunk other myths such as that they should always follow a low-sodium diet. She even disparages the notion that they should never give in to food cravings.
However, for the 220 million + people who suffer from the disease, there is plenty of evidence that nutrition plays an important role in managing and even reversing diabetes. But there is no single recipe for success, because every individual is…well, an individual – with individual metabolism and individual nutritional needs.
How to address this problem? Personalized treatment is the answer, and nutritionists are the very people who can work with individuals to ensure that they get onto the right nutritional program. However, data shows that people have little ability to stay on a program even with a nutritionist involved. Good Measures, a Boston company on a mission, has developed the Good Measures Index (“GMI”) that enables each individual to track their nutritional intake. A low GMI indicates that recent food consumption has not met nutritional needs. The company’s digital platform then recommends meals that can compensate. “It is hard to overstate the value of this ranking… at a moment in time… of a wide variety of meals and snacks that are composed of foods you like”, says Good Measures CEO, George Bennett. “It greatly simplifies the launching of the improved eating habits journey.”
Using social media to understand how consumers discuss diabetes and the impact of nutritionist support, we unearthed some interesting insights:
- The largest driver of the conversation was the topic “bad habits/false information” where people discuss how the past unhealthy behavior and misinformation contributed to their current situation.
- @uberfacts is the most prolific publisher of data on the topic (example: eating instant noodles 2 to 3 times a week increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes). Given that “facts” on @uberfacts are not always factual, it is no wonder there are so many myths to be debunked on this topic.
- Conversations about “working with a professional”, and “seeking advice or struggling” are also significant, indicating patients’ interest in working with a nutritionist or dietitian to improve their condition.
An analysis of the people who are talking about diabetes and the impact of nutritionists show that the audience is predominantly over 35 years of age. Californians are very much more verbal on the topic (over 16,000 posts) compared to New Yorkers (over 10,000 posts). The next two states in volume of discussion are Texas and Florida. When normalized to ‘per capita’ Utah scores highest with 744 posts per capita – twice as much as the second in line Washington D.C. with 389 posts per capita.
People who are prolific on the subject have strong affinities with similar topics such as Probiotics, Self-Improvement, Recipes and Health Food. They are least interested in talking about fashion, basketball, soccer, and video games.
- Good Measures might be onto something: people need professional help, but are not very good at keeping appointments.
- People with strong affinities with popular sports as well as with video games might be populations to target for a health-related PR campaign.
- Analyzing popular Twitter hashtags reveals that the audience is eager to make radical changes in eating habits and willing to try modern dietary trends:
- #vegan is the fourth largest hashtag with more than 20,000 posts
- #vegetarian is close behind with 19,000 posts
- Together, these two hashtags are as much as half the popular #diabetes hashtag (78,000 posts), and have approximately the same share of voice as more generalized hashtags: #diet (35,000 posts) and #food (28,000 posts).
- By analyzing the audience, we learn that people who discuss diabetes AND nutrition have heightened interest in alternative diets: for example, they are 1000X more interested in the Ketogenic Diet and 422X more interested in the Paleo Diet than the average Twitter population.
Unfortunately, the younger crowd remains disengaged from the topic. An opportunity is open for educators and thought leaders such as Good Measures to leverage social media to win them over. Creating the right habits at an early age is much easier than having to change bad habits once a problem has set in. Getting in front of them with facts rather myths could launch young ambassadors who could go a long way towards spreading the truth about this ubiquitous disease.
A Post Script from the author:
When I drafted this blog over a month ago, Amy Campbell was employed at the Joslin Diabetes Center. Today as we go live I learned that she is now employed at Good Measures. Serendipity is such a great word. Did you know it originates from a Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip who were, according Horace Walpole who wrote in 1754, “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.”
This deep-dive analysis was built by Senior Solutions Consultant, Zuzana Salka.
For additional insights into Diabetes, review our Part II analysis analyzing changing trends over the last 5 years