Utilize Digital and Social Media Data for Your Research

Workshop 4 of the New Digital Scholar Training Initiative

August 20, 2014

In collaboration with Symplur, a healthcare social media consultancyThe Symplur team will offer a free 30-minute explorative consulting session to each participant tailored to how their own research can leverage social media data.

In this workshop, you will learn how to use the wealth of digital and social media data for research insights as well as to identify disease communities online, engage potential participants, and enroll them in research studies.

You will also get access to Symplur Signals, an online application that provides more than 500 million healthcare-related tweets and 185 million user profiles from Twitter, all segmented by thousands of healthcare relevant topics.

Workshop Overview

Complete the application onlineApplication deadline is Sep 8, 2014. Awardees will be informed by Sep 12, 2014.

Date/Time: Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014, 1-4pm

Location: USC Health Sciences Campus, CSC, Harkness Auditorium, 2250 Alcazar Street, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Open to: USC/CHLA community

Designed for: Faculty, clinician-scientists, post-doctoral scholars, PhDs; USC/CHLA community


About This Workshop

Today, over 80 percent of Americans seek health information online and nearly 70 percent of all Internet users in the United States use digital and social media. These numbers are increasing, even among diverse and underserved populations. This trend provides huge opportunities for researchers.

For example, did you know that African Americans have exhibited relatively high levels of Twitter use? Fully 40% of 18-29 year old African Americans who use the Internet say that they use Twitter. Latinos go online from mobile devices and use social networking sites at similar – and sometimes higher – rates than do other Americans. And, around 81% of lower-income Americans say it is “very important” for the library to provide free access to the Internet and computers? (Pew Research Center, 2013, 2014)

Attendees of this workshop will learn how the general public, disease communities, and health care professionals use the Web and social media. They will learn about the potential and limitations of using the resulting ‘digital traces’ to inform their research and how to design data-driven online outreach strategies to achieve their research goals (e.g., engagement, enrollment).

Workshop Syllabus

1. The Digital Age

  • Introduction: Why use digital and social media as part of your research?
  • Understand how the general public, disease communities, and health care professionals use the Web and social media

2. Online Outreach and Enrollment

  • Analyze examples of successful online research outreach and enrollment campaigns
  • Understand platform usage by audience: compare and choose online platforms based on enrollment goals (e.g., blogs, microblogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook, Patients Like Me, etc.), video- and files-sharing sites (YouTube, etc.), e-games, WIKIs)
  • Understand online consent and FDA digital and social media guidelines
  • Design a data-driven online outreach and enrollment strategy

3. The Nature of Digital Data

  • How to utilize data from digital and social media listening tools to inform your online outreach strategy?
  • Where and how to find digital and social media data?
  • Understand the potential and limitations of that data

4. Using Symplur Signals

  • Learn how to leverage Symplur Signals to analyze over a billion healthcare social media data points in real time
  • Identify relevant healthcare communities on Twitter and learn how to seek out top influencers of all stakeholder types (providers, patients, etc.)
  • Understand the dynamics of each community from content analysis and network centrality analysis of the relationships

Recommended Background

There are no prerequisites for this workshop. There will be additional opportunities for those who are interested in using Symplur Signals after the workshop for their research purposes. Symplur will offer a free 30-minute explorative consulting session to each participant tailored to how their research can leverage healthcare social media data.

Suggested Reading

Usage of digital and social media

Digital and social data mining

Online Outreach and Participant Recruitment

Ethical issues, FDA guidelines, Online consent

Additional resources will be provided at no cost during the workshop.

Course Format

The three-hour workshop will use lectures and videos, template resources, and practical examples, allowing participants to apply the new knowledge to their specific research goals.


Will I get a certificate after completing this workshop?
Yes. Participants who complete individual workshops or the entire series will receive a certificate signed by Jonathan M. Samet, MD, MS, Distinguished Professor and Flora L. Thornton Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Director, USC Institute for Global Health, Director of the SC CTSI Education, Career Development, and Ethics program, and lead instructor Katja Reuter, PhD, director of Digital Strategy and the eHome program at SC CTSI.
What resources will I need for this workshop?
Please bring your computer and your phone. You will need Internet access.
What tools will we be using in this workshop?
We will introduce several digital and social media measurement and listening tools as well as Symplur Signals.
In support of the workshop series and follow-ups, we will use USC Blackboard and a blog.

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.