Social media, an essential source of public access to information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, has a significant effect on the transmission of information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and helps the public gain correct insights into the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. The forwarding behavior of social media users on posts concerned with COVID-19 vaccine topics can rapidly disseminate vaccine information in a short period, which has a significant effect on transmission and helps the public access relevant information. However, the factors of social media users’ forwarding posts are still uncertain thus far. In this paper, we investigated the factors of the forwarding COVID-19 vaccines Weibo posts on Chinese social media and verified the correlation between social network characteristics, Weibo textual sentiment characteristics, and post forwarding.
This paper used data mining, machine learning, sentiment analysis, social network analysis, and regression analysis. Using “???? (COVID-19 vaccine)” as the keyword, we used data mining to crawl 121,834 Weibo posts on Sina Weibo from 1 January 2021 to 31 May 2021. Weibo posts not closely correlated with the topic of the COVID-19 vaccines were filtered out using machine learning. In the end, 3,158 posts were used for data analysis. The proportions of positive sentiment and negative sentiment in the textual of Weibo posts were calculated through sentiment analysis. On that basis, the sentiment characteristics of Weibo posts were determined. The social network characteristics of information transmission on the COVID-19 vaccine topic were determined through social network analysis. The correlation between social network characteristics, sentiment characteristics of the text, and the forwarding volume of posts was verified through regression analysis.
The results suggest that there was a significant positive correlation between the degree of posting users in the social network structure and the amount of forwarding. The relationship between the closeness centrality and the forwarding volume was significantly positive. The betweenness centrality was significantly positively correlated with the forwarding volume. There was no significant relationship between the number of posts containing more positive sentiments and the forwarding volume of posts. There was a significant positive correlation between the number of Weibo posts containing more negative sentiments and the forwarding volume.
According to the characteristics of users, COVID-19 vaccine posts from opinion leaders, “gatekeepers,” and users with high-closeness centrality are more likely to be reposted. Users with these characteristics should be valued for their important role in disseminating information about COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, the sentiment contained in the Weibo post is an important factor influencing the public to forward vaccine posts. Special attention should be paid to the negative sentimental tendency contained in this post on Weibo to mitigate the negative impact of the information epidemic and improve the transmission effect of COVID-19 vaccine information.