The prominence of social media in contemporary society has extended significantly into the health care arena, where both patients and health care providers have used social media platforms to gather, communicate, learn, and share medical content and personal experience in real time. The medical literature has also seen an exponential increase in the number of studies that use data derived from social media coverage of various medical issues and topics. In this guide, we present a step-by-step framework for health care professionals and researchers to conduct studies that use data from social media platforms. We present 6 overarching steps: focus on framing a question that is appropriate for social media evaluation, identification of social media outlet and selection criteria of content, systematic data extraction, assessment of quality of content and sources of bias, analysis of data, and interpretation of study findings. Each step is illustrated with published examples.
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