When people in a smoking cessation programme tweet each other regularly, they are more successful at kicking the habit, says a study. Specifically, daily "auto-messages" that encourage and direct the social media exchanges may be more effective than traditional social media interventions for quitting smoking.
"Our results indicate that incorporating social media-delivered auto-messages from trained counsellors were effective in promoting smoking cessation," said Cornelia Pechmann from the University of California-Irvine. "The twice-daily messages encouraged people to tweet their group members, which made them more accountable for quitting," Pechmann added.
The researchers found that overall engagement in two consecutive Tweet2Quit groups was high, with 78 percent of members tweeting their fellow study subjects at least once during the 100-day study.
The average number of tweets per person was 72, and 60 percent tweeted past the 30-day mark. Group No.1 had a smoking cessation rate of 42 percent. Using lessons gleaned from that trial, researchers tweaked the auto-messaging process, and Group No. 2 had a success rate of 75 percent.
Members of the Tweet2Quit's two closed, 20-person groups communicated online via Twitter for 100 days. Participants each received a free supply of nicotine patches, along with daily automated text messages. They were encouraged to use a web-based guide to develop a cessation plan and were asked to tweet their group at least once a day about their progress.
There were no expert facilitators in the groups; the smokers themselves supported one another. However, the daily auto-messages encouraged and directed peer-to-peer discussions, and distinct tweeting spikes occurred when the messages were sent. "The Twitter environment created a sort of party dynamic," said Pechmann.
"That's especially important for social smokers. In addition, group leaders naturally emerged, facilitating the online conversations. These leaders played a critical role in keeping people engaged," the researcher added. The findings were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.