Using social media influencers to increase knowledge and positive attitudes toward the flu vaccine

Erika Bonnevie*, Sarah D. Rosenberg, Caitlin Kummeth, Jaclyn Goldbarg, Ellen Wartella, Joe Smyser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Seasonal influenza affects millions of people across the United States each year. African Americans and Hispanics have significantly lower vaccination rates, and large-scale campaigns have had difficulty increasing vaccination among these two groups. This study assessed the feasibility of delivering a flu vaccination promotion campaign using influencers, and examined shifts in social norms regarding flu vaccine acceptability after a social media micro influencer campaign. Influencers were asked to choose from vetted messages and create their own original content promoting flu vaccination, which was posted to their social media pages. Content was intentionally unbranded to ensure that it aligned with the look and feel of their pages. Cross-sectional pre- and post-campaign surveys were conducted within regions that received the campaign and control regions to examine potential campaign impact. Digital metrics assessed campaign exposure. Overall, 117 influencers generated 69,495 engagements. Results from the region that received the campaign showed significant increases in positive beliefs about the flu vaccine, and significant decreases in negative community attitudes toward the vaccine. This study suggests that flu campaigns using a ground-up rather than top-down approach can feasibly reach at-risk groups with lower vaccination rates, and shows the potentials of using an influencer-based model to communicate information about flu vaccination on a large scale. 2020 Bonnevie et al. 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 author and source are credited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0240828
JournalPloS one
Issue number10 October
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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