Who shapes crisis communication on Twitter? An analysis of German influencers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Shahi, Gautam Kishore
Clausen, Sünje
Stieglitz, Stefan
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Twitter is becoming an increasingly important platform for disseminating information during crisis situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective crisis communication on Twitter can shape the public perception of the crisis, influence adherence to preventative measures, and thus affect public health. Influential accounts are particularly important as they reach large audiences quickly. This study identifies influential German-language accounts from almost 3 million German tweets collected between January and May 2020 by constructing a retweet network and calculating PageRank centrality values. We capture the volatility of crisis communication by structuring the analysis into seven stages based on key events during the pandemic and profile influential accounts into roles. Our analysis shows that news and journalist accounts were influential throughout all phases, while government accounts were particularly important shortly before and after the lockdown was instantiated. We discuss implications for crisis communication during health crises and for analyzing long-term crisis data.
Data Analytics, Data Mining and Machine Learning for Social Media, author profiling, covid-19, crisis communication, influencer, social network analysis
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