Dangerous Messages or Satire? Analysing the Conspiracy Theory Linking 5G to COVID-19 through Social Network Analysis

Our pre-peer review preprint is now online for Journal of Medical Internet Research:




Since the beginning of December 2019 COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world which has led to increased discussions across online platforms. These conversations have also included various conspiracies shared by social media users. Amongst them a popular theory has linked 5G to the spread of COVID-19 leading to misinformation and the burning of 5G towers in the United Kingdom. The understanding of the drivers of fake news and quick policies oriented to isolate and rebate misinformation are key to combating it.


To develop an understanding of the drivers of the 5G COVID-19 conspiracy theory and strategies to deal with such misinformation


This paper performs a Social Network Analysis and Content Analysis of Twitter data from a 7-day period in which the #5GCoronavirus hashtag was trending on Twitter. Influential users are analyzed through social network graph clusters. The size of the nodes is ranked by their betweenness centrality score and the graph’s vertices are grouped by cluster using the Clauset-Newman-Moore algorithm. Topics and Web sources utilized by users are examined.


Social Network Analysis identified that the two largest network structures consisted of an isolates group and a broadcast group. The analysis also reveals that there was a lack of authority figure who was actively combating such misinformation. Content analysis reveals that only 35% of individual tweets contained views that 5G and COVID-19 were linked whereas 32% denounced the conspiracy theory and 33% were general tweets not expressing any personal views or opinions. Thus, 65% of tweets derived from non-conspiracy theory supporters which suggests that although the topic attracted high volume only a handful of users genuinely believed the conspiracy. This paper also shows that fake news websites were the most popular Web-source shared by users although YouTube videos were also shared. The study also identified an account whose sole aim was to spread the conspiracy theory on Twitter.


The combination of quick targeted interventions oriented to delegitimize the sources of fake information are key to reducing their impact. Those users voicing their views against the conspiracy theory, link-baiting, or sharing humorous tweets inadvertently raised the profile of the topic, suggesting that policymakers should insist in the efforts of isolating opinions which are based on fake news. Many social media platforms provide users with the ability to report inappropriate content. This study is the first to analyse the 5G conspiracy theory in the context of COVID-19 on Twitter offering practical guidance to health authorities in how, in the context of a pandemic, rumors may be combated in the future.

Find the preprint here: https://www.jmir.org/preprint/19458

The Constellation of Joe Wicks

Dr Wasim Ahmed, University of Newcastle, UK; Dr Opeoluwa Aiyenitaju, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK; Professor Simon Chadwick, Emlyon Business School, France; Dr Alex Fenton, University of Salford, UK.

Joe Wicks, the British fitness coach who initially shot to prominence on Instagram, is continuing to engage children and fitness fanatics across the world. With many people either social isolating or locked down, Wicks’ daily P.E. workouts delivered via YouTube have become a staple of household routines.

In an earlier article, we noted how Wicks’ workouts have driven the development of a huge social media communications network. This includes via platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. We are still monitoring Wicks and his influence in a research project that uses mixed methods research.

The questions underpinning our analysis are: What is the nature of the health and well-being content being generated by this influencer? How is it moving through social media networks? And what is user sentiment towards this content?

Following our latest analysis of communications posted by and about Joe Wicks, we have identified that they appear in a form that is something akin to a constellation (Figure 1). In this pattern of communications, Wicks is the big influencer star, although he is surrounded by a host of other influencer stars albeit ones that shine less brightly in this context.

Figure 1: The Joe Wicks social media constellation

A closer examination of the constellation (which we refer to as the #Wicksophere) reveals the identities of other influencer stars in the constellation. Among these are television personality and journalist Piers Morgan, and writer and journalist Caitlin Moran (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Star influencers in the Joe Wicks constellation

This observation is consistent with our earlier findings that Wicks constitutes the focal node in a broadcast network form, but that content about him is in turn driven by a series of other high profile, often famous personalities and influencers.

However, in this iteration of our study we employed a measure of betweenness centrality — a measure of the ‘influence of a vertex over the flow of information between every pair of vertices under the assumption that information primarily flows over the shortest paths between them’.

This revealed a significant influencer over the last week or so has been an individual tweeting via the account @fliceverett (see Figure 3). This person is neither famous nor an established social media influencer. Instead, she impacted upon the flow of communications about Joe Wicks following a posting set in the context of peoples’ Covid-19 coping strategies (see Figure 4).

Figure 3: Flic Everett as a social media influencer
Figure 4: Flic Everett’s influencer posting on Twitter

Nevertheless, when we switched the nodes and labels associated with Wicks’ constellation to rank by number of followers rather than betweenness centrality, perhaps a slightly more stable view of the universe emerged (see Figure 5).

It is interesting to note that in this version of the constellation, planets such as comedian Stephen Fry and footballer Sergio Aguero are orbiting the suns of YouTube, CNN and Instagram. One can still see the space dust trajectory around Joe Wicks and Flic Everett, but one needs a more powerful telescope to zoom in and see them.

Figure 5: Wicks’ constellation with nodes ranked by number of followers

Our work examining Joe Wicks, social influencers and public health policy continues. Hence, we will be reporting again soon via this and our other digital channels. For the time-being, we nevertheless conclude that Wicks continues to be a significant public health influencer during this period when schools and other institutions are in lockdown.

We also note the space dust glitterati of influencers congregated around Wicks. However, we now also note that the meteor shower of influencers from within the general population may also periodically shoot through social media constellations.

Furthermore, it is clear from our initial work here that how one employs techniques of social network analysis also influences how collectively we view people such as Joe Wicks, Flic Everett and Piers Morgan.

This blog was originally posted on Professor Simon Chadwick’s Medium blog

Jennifer Aniston And Cristiano Ronaldo Use It, Now Its Your Turn To Achieve Success on Instagram

Major A-List stars use it to further extend their personal brand, shouldn’t you also? We believe that brands across various industries and of all sizes can use Instagram to further expand their reach. But for the uninitiated, what is Instagram?

Instagram is an American photo and video-sharing social networking service which is owned by Facebook. It was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and launched in October 2010 on iOS. On April 9, 2012.

However, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold Instagram, to Facebook. Facebook purchased the photo filter app 18 months after its launch for $1 billion: $300 million in cash, the rest in Facebook stock. That’s not a typo! Indeed, it was sold for $1 billion. This staggering amount of money should tell you to take this platform seriously.

One of the key features of Instagram compared to other social media sites was is its visual nature. The key premise on Instagram is to share pictures. Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users which provides social media marketing agencies the ability to target a vast amount of people.

Social media advertising has now become a part of an organisations marketing budget. The famous Instagram logo is recognised all over the world. When Instagram is down, users tend to flock onto other platforms such as Twitter and cause a world-wide trend. Social media platforms are designed to be addictive. The more the public use Instagram converts to more ad-revenue for brands.

But how can you as a brand benefit from Instagram? One rule to follow is 80% faces. This means that every 8 in 10 posts should contain at least one human face. Our brains are hard-wired to engage most with images containing faces.

Users gauge how authentic a profile is through very complex subconscious signaling reading human emotions and body language. Never-ending posts of your product or services without the human element is a waste of your time. Instagram is all about personality, promoting your brand’s personality is impossible without images of your people!

Give users a behind-the-scenes look at how your business functions, images from the office , corporate days out and how your products are made are a good starting point.

Be as creative as possible as you want to stand out from the millions of images that are posted to the platform every day. Capitalise on the interactions you as a business owner or marketing professional make on a daily basis. Just had a great meeting with a supplier? Snap a picture. Remember to get permission from whoever is in the image too.

Are you interested in learning more about Instagram?

We are pleased to report that we have written extensively on this topic and our newest book:

InstaBusiness: The Quick Start Guide to Making it on Instagram is available exclusively on Amazon.

Interested in other social media platforms? Be sure to check out our tips on TikTok:

Why Generation Z Loves TikTok: Brands Shouldn’t be Afraid, You Don’t Have to Be Justin Bieber

Why Generation Z Loves TikTok: Brands Shouldn’t be Afraid, You Don’t Have to Be Justin Bieber

Social media marketing has been an effective way to target younger generations over the previous 10 years or so. Back in the day, brands could trust on using social media sites such as Facebook to reach a younger demographic. However, it was inevitable that through the evolution of social media platforms a newer competitor would arise.

TikTok has emerged out of nowhere with extreme popularity, but what is TikTok? TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. The app was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in markets outside of China.

TikTok already has a number of social media influencers and is being utilised for social media marketing purposes. Essentially TikTok videos tend to be short video clips with a short sound track, typically under 10 seconds. TikTok songs can be selected by a user themselves.

Social media addiction is a real phenomenon and by nature TikTok is much more addictive than other platforms. We have found that users can easily expend hours a day browsing though TikTok videos. This is bad news for parents, but good news for social media advertisers as increased time on the platform leads to better ad potential.

As compared to static Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts TikTok is designed to be more appealing. The user-experience is stream-lined with audio and visual video elements combined with use of more of our senses when engaging with TikTok videos. Social media marketing agencies are already catching onto the popularity of the platform.

There is no such thing as normal on TikTok. Unlike Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, there is no etiquette. What is clear, however, is that all content should have a human face to it. Overly pushy marketing content will be reprimanded through TikTok’s use of AI and algorithmic decision-making.

You should create demand rather than look to make direct sales. TikTok is all about building a following through content that actually inspires some reaction out of the user. Remember that TikTok has 800 million active users worldwide and is growing!

TikTok also has a native ads platform, allowing you to pay your way into user feeds. Unlike Facebook, however, direct ads are wholly ineffective. All of the ad formats center around engagement rather than leads and sales. The native in-feed ad format resembles YouTube’s video ads before and during videos.

Crucially, these ads can be skipped after a few seconds, so engagement is key. Given the fact that your ad is being shown before they can watch content they actually want to view, engaging them enough to actually keep watching your ad beyond the point at which they are allowed to skip, is no easy feat.

Are you interested in learning more about TikTok?

We are pleased to report that we have written extensively on this topic and our newest book:

TikTok: The Ultimate Guide to Marketing to GEN Z is available exclusively on Amazon.

New output! (*Open Access*) Contextualising the 2019 E-Cigarette Health Scare: Insights from Twitter

Great to see our fully open access journal article go online today which aims to build an understanding of how social media may play a role in the global dissemination of amateur and unfounded speculation against accepted medical research. This research is significant because we find medical studies being socially challenged by various social media networks at an increasing rate.
Entitled: ‘Contextualising the 2019 E-Cigarette Health Scare: Insights from Twitter’ link below.


Keywords: electronic nicotine delivery systems; social media; smoking; twitter

Power of Twitter During COVID-19: Visualizing the Hashtag #CoronaVirusLockdown on March 25th 2020

This blog post provides insight into the hashtag #CoronaVirusLockdown.

NodeXL was utilised in order to capture tweets from 18,439 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained “#CoronavirusLockdown”, or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets, taken from a data set limited to a maximum of 18,000 tweets. The tweets in the network were tweeted over the 1-hour, 7-minute period from Wednesday, 25 March 2020 at 02:06 UTC to Wednesday, 25 March 2020 at 03:13 UTC.  A random sample such as this is typically sufficient to provide a snapshot of the overall network.

Figure 1 below provides an overview of the influential users on Twitter related to this time-period and hashtag.

Figure 1. Overview of Influential Twitter users (March 25)

top users

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, appears across two accounts as one account appears to be tweeting primarily in English and the other in Hindi. Other influential accounts consist of Asian News International which is a multi-media news agency. Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, also appears as an influential user within the network.  Followed by President Donald Trump and Dhanush, an Indian film actor who was in support of the recent lock-down in India. The range of influential users highlights how the current battle against Coronavirus is a global effort.

We can also visualize the #CoronaVirusLockdown hashtag in NodeXL and this is provided below in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Social Network Graph of #CoronaVirusLockdown

nodexl groups

The graph highlights that discussion related to the hashtag was done so in a number of different groups. The graph is a clustering of Twitter discussion taking place at this time based on the network connections of Twitter users. Group 1 (top left) is an isolates group where a number of Twitter users are tweeting without being connected to each other. We can take a further look at group 2 and 3 which are the second and third largest groups.

Figure 3. Zooming into Group 2 Uncovers a Number of Influential Accounts from India

zoom into group 1

In group 2 the most frequently used hashtags consisted of:

[2343] coronaviruslockdown
[343] 21dayslockdown
[296] covid19
[262] coronavirusindia
[260] coronavirus
[206] curfewinindia
[177] covid2019
[155] stayhome
[150] 21daylockdown
[143] stayhomeindia

We can see that many of these hashtags were specific to India.

Figure 4. Zooming into Group 3 Highlights how the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi appears towards the bottom centre of the group

zooming into group 3

The most frequently occurring hashtags within  this group consisted of:

[1061] coronaviruslockdown
[183] 21dayslockdown
[150] coronavirusindia
[145] curfewinindia
[93] 21daylockdown
[84] indiafightscorona
[72] coronavirus
[69] stayhomeindia
[67] stayathomesavelives
[62] allahthehealer

Many of these hashtags were similar to group 2.

We can see that social media has provided a platform for public health advocacy and a number of influential users such as celebrities have come forward to express support of government actions related to the isolation of citizens.

New book! TikTok: The Ultimate Guide to Marketing to GEN Z

Be sure to check out our latest book on TikTok! Available exclusively on Amazon.

TikTok, with over 800 million monthly active users, has been a disruptive force within the social media world. TikTok is a fast-evolving app and being an early adopter and having a TikTok strategy will give you the edge. SMEs, entrepreneurs, and academics simply cannot afford to overlook the platform. This guide will take you through all fundamentals of finding a Gen Z following on the platform. It’s jam-packed with techniques, tips and hacks that you can use to start building new relationships with customers, generating leads and sales on the platform to boost your profits. The book has been authored by academics who are very passionate about social media and have years of experience working with large-scale organizations.

front cover


Become Instagram Famous: Understanding Instagram Stories

It has been 10 years since the inception of Instagram. Its premise is simple; to provide a platform for millions of users to share images and videos. With over 1 billion active monthly users and 500 million daily Instagram stories, companies simply cannot afford to overlook it. 

Instagram stories allow you to post more content without necessarily displaying them on your main Instagram feed. Instagram stories are a great way of showcasing your company ethics without overloading your followers with excessive content. Stories are displayed at the top of any given Instagram feed and the user can choose to view your story. Where it differs from other content on Instagram is that it will disappear after 24-hours.

There are 6 types of content you can post to your story:

Text – great for quotes or other information, particularly of a daily nature. If you a running a single day sale, this is a great way to let your customers know.

Music – where you can attach a sound bite or music clip to one of your images or videos.

Superzoom’ – which adds an animated automatic zoom to a video of your choice

‘Focus’ – which automatically blurs out the background and highlights the main subject matter of an image or video.

‘Hands-free’ – which allows you to create a video without having to hold the record button; this is more practical than anything else if you intend to capture video whilst also being in it.

Another great feature of stories is that you can draw directly on top of the content as if it was a real picture or add a doodle/sketch.

Interested in learning more about Instagram?

Buy our book on Amazon, InstaBusiness: The Quick Start Guide to Making it on Instagram

instabusiness coverrrrr

InstaBusiness: The Quick Start Guide to Making it on Instagram