Social Media for ImpLementing Evidence (SMILE): Conceptual Framework

Junqiang Zhao, Gillian Harvey, Amanda Vandyk, Wendy Gifford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Social media has become widely used by individual researchers and professional organizations to translate research evidence into health care practice. Despite its increasing popularity, few social media initiatives consider the theoretical perspectives of how social media works as a knowledge translation strategy to affect research use. Objective: The purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework to understand how social media works as a knowledge translation strategy for health care providers, policy makers, and patients to inform their health care decision-making. Methods: We developed this framework using an integrative approach that first involved reviewing 5 long-standing social media initiatives. We then drafted the initial framework using a deductive approach by referring to 5 theories on social media studies and knowledge translation. A total of 58 empirical studies on factors that influenced the use of social media and its messages and strategies for promoting 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. Results: 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 target recipients' needs and context and develop relevant messages and appropriate delivery strategies. The recipients' use of social media messages is influenced by the virtual-technical, individual, organizational, and system contexts and can be activated by three types of triggers: sparks, facilitators, and signals. Conclusions: 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 health care decision-making. Empirical studies are now needed to test the propositions of this framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29891
Number of pages16
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2022


  • conceptual framework
  • implementation science
  • knowledge translation
  • research use
  • social media


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