Social Media for ImpLementing Evidence (SMILE): A Conceptual Framework


Social media has become widely used by individual researchers and professional organizations to translate research evidence to healthcare practice. Despite its increasing popularity, few social media initiatives consider the theoretical perspectives of how social media works as a knowledge translation strategy to impact research use.


The purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework to understand how social media works as a knowledge translation strategy for healthcare providers, policy makers, and/or patients to inform their healthcare decision making.


We developed this framework using an integrative approach that first involved reviewing five longstanding social media initiatives. We then drafted the initial framework using a deductive approach by referring to five theories on social media studies and knowledge translation. Fifty-eight empirical studies on factors that influenced the use of social media and its messages, and strategies to promote the use of research evidence via social media were further integrated to substantiate and fine-tune our initial framework. Through an iterative process, we developed the Social Media for ImpLementing Evidence (SMILE) framework.


The SMILE framework has six key constructs: developers, messages and delivery strategies, recipients, context, triggers, and outcomes. For social media to effectively enable recipients to use research evidence in their decision making, the framework proposes that social media content developers respond to their target recipients’ needs and context, and develop relevant messages and appropriate delivery strategies. Recipients’ use of social media messages are influenced by the virtual-technical, individual, organizational, and system contexts, and are activated by three types of triggers: sparks, facilitators, and signals. 


The SMILE framework maps the factors that are hypothesized to influence the use of social media messages by recipients, and offers a heuristic device for social media content developers to create interventions for promoting the use of evidence in healthcare decision making. Empirical studies are now needed to test the propositions of this framework.

Junqiang Zhao

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