Document Type

Journal Article


Department of Communication Studies




Background: In the recent years, social networking sites (SNSs, also called social media) have been adopted in organ donation campaigns, and recruiting opinion leaders for such campaigns has been found effective in promoting behavioral changes.

Objective: The aim of this paper was to focus on the dissemination of organ donation tweets on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and to examine the opinion leadership in the retweet network of popular organ donation messages using social network analysis. It also aimed to investigate how personal and social attributes contribute to a user’s opinion leadership on the topic of organ donation.

Methods: All messages about organ donation posted on Weibo from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015 were extracted using Python Web crawler. A retweet network with 505,047 nodes and 545,312 edges of the popular messages (n=206) was constructed and analyzed. The local and global opinion leaderships were measured using network metrics, and the roles of personal attributes, professional knowledge, and social positions in obtaining the opinion leadership were examined using general linear model.

Results: The findings revealed that personal attributes, professional knowledge, and social positions predicted individual’s local opinion leadership in the retweet network of popular organ donation messages. Alternatively, personal attributes and social positions, but not professional knowledge, were significantly associated with global opinion leadership.

Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that health campaign designers may recruit peer leaders in SNS organ donation promotions to facilitate information sharing among the target audience. Users who are unverified, active, well connected, and experienced with information and communications technology (ICT) will accelerate the sharing of organ donation messages in the global environment. Medical professionals such as organ transplant surgeons who can wield a great amount of influence on their direct connections could also effectively participate in promoting organ donation on social media.


social medial, health promotion, organ donation, opinion leaders, social network analysis

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Journal of Medical Internet Research





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Journal of Medical Internet Research

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©Jingyuan Shi, Charles T Salmon. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 09.01.2018.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.



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