Social network analysis of Twitter data from Pakistan during COVID-19

Document Type





Purpose: The use of social media has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media platforms provide opportunities to share news, ideas and personal stories. Twitter is used by citizens in Pakistan to respond and comment on emerging news stories and events. However, it is not known whether Twitter played a positive or negative role in spreading updates and preventive messages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this study is to analyse content from Twitter during the pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach: NodeXL was used to retrieve data using the keyword وائرس کورونا (written in Urdu and which translates to Coronavirus). The first data set (Case Study 1) was based on 10,284 Twitter users from the end of March. The second data set (Case Study 2) was based on 10,644 Twitter users from the start of April. The theoretical lens of effective message framing was used to classify the most retweeted content on Twitter.

Findings: Twitter was used for personal and professional projections and included certain tweets included political motives even during the unfolding health crisis. There appeared to be very few successful attempts to use Twitter as a tool for health awareness and risk communication. The empirical findings indicate that the most retweeted messages were gain-framed and can be classified as personal, informative and political in nature.

Originality/value: The present study provides insights likely to be of interest to researchers, health organizations, citizens, government and politicians that are interested in making more effective use of social media for the purposes of health promotion. The authors also provide novel insights into the key topics of discussions, websites and hashtags used by Pakistani Twitter users during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Information Discovery and Delivery