Exploring drivers for public engagement in social media communication with medical social influencers in China

Cindy Sing Bik Ngai*, Rita G SINGH, Wenze Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Social networking sites offer an important means for increasing the accessibility and enabling new forms of health communication between the public and medical social influencers (MSIs). MSIs have a social presence and are perceived as a credible source of healthrelated information. A research gap, however, exists in understanding the communication strategies employed by MSIs and the factors driving the public to engage in health communication with MSIs. This study, therefore, developed a new conceptual framework incorporating health communication, dialogic and interpersonal communication by employing quantitative content analysis to examine public engagement with MSI communication on the largest microblogging site in China, Sina Weibo. The analysis yielded insights into how the usefulness of health-related information provided alongside the interactive dialogue and affective practices played an active role in engaging the public. The public sought healthrelated information primarily to address issues of concern for well-being and a high level of engagement in terms of online shares, likes, and comments was found. The use of multimedia made the site more appealing, resulting in likes while the expression of emotions by MSIs generated likes and comments. The need to connect with other online users and have a sense of community was reflected in engagement through sharing useful MSI posts by the public. By identifying influential MSIs on social networking sites, health information providers such as organizations and the government can raise awareness of health issues to foster a healthy lifestyle and contribute to better living in the community.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240303
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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