Genomics and Twitter: How is genomics discussed on Twitter?

The complexity, expansiveness and lack of transparency of Twitter’s social media landscape makes meaningful engagement with genomics-related Twitter activity difficult for NGOs such as the Human Variome Project. This exploratory study aims to provide initial insight into the users, network and content of genomics-related discussions on Twitter. A two-week sample of 31,831 genomics-related tweets was retrieved by connecting to the Twitter Application Programming Interface (API) through the Digital Methods Initiative Twitter Capture and Analysis Tool (DMITCAT), created by The University of Amsterdam and Foundation (Borra & Rieder 2014, p262). The results of this study suggest that direct-to-consumer genomics companies have a significant influence over genomics-discussions on Twitter, that they engage in sophisticated marketing strategies to peak Twitter engagement and that users promoting genomics tests on Twitter should consider national and international regulation regarding communications on genomics. These findings form a benchmark for Twitter activity related to genomics and provide recommendations on how stakeholders should engage.