HYBRID EVENT: You can participate in person at Baltimore, Maryland, USA or Virtually from your home or work.
Joe Smyser, Speaker at Immunology Conferences
The Public Good Projects, United States
Title : Lessons learned for the future of social listening to address vaccine misinformation


Introduction: As the pandemic evolves and nations refocus on routine immunizations and vaccine-preventable outbreaks, it is critical to continue increasing vaccine demand. Misinformation threatens the success of vaccination programs across the world. Since 2017, The Public Good Projects (PGP) has monitored public media data around 15 distinct health topics, most recently related to immunizations and COVID-19 misinformation. PGP has engaged in social listening in dozens of languages and geographic contexts, including all 50 US-states, and 20+ countries across the world. In 2019, PGP began tracking and responding to US-based vaccine misinformation through Project VCTR, which has collected millions of conversations about vaccine misinformation in both English and Spanish. Project VCTR provides weekly misinformation reports to thousands of users, representing health departments, nonprofits, academia, media, and the private sector. This presentation will relay lessons learned from PGP’s social listening experience, with commentary on challenges and opportunities, and the future of using social listening to address health misinformation.
Methods: PGP’s social listening consolidates online data from social listening platforms with hyperlocal offline data gathered through close relationships with organizations working on the ground. No single social listening platform is responsible for PGP’s data; instead PGP has strong relationships with all major social media companies and contracts with multiple competing media monitoring systems. By combining data from these platforms with offline insights from local organizations, data can be triangulated in ways no other social listening system is capable of. Data are used to create programs and messages that speak directly to the way that a health topic is being understood by a specific population. As part of its programs, PGP often provides local partners with customized access to the social listening tools. Providing community-level access to these powerful disease surveillance systems allows local programs to benefit from datasets that categorize a community’s understanding of critical health topics. By employing PGP’s holistic approach to social listening, communities can benefit from a more nuanced understanding of vaccine misinformation.
Lessons Learned: If utilized effectively, social listening can be a critical tool in helping to bolster global vaccine confidence. Social listening is a nuanced process that involves reviewing multiple social listening platforms, and integrating both on and offline data. Through our work, we have learned the importance of diversifying the resources and tools we use, instead of relying on one platform to make conclusions on overall vaccine misinformation. Yet technology and tools are just one part of the process. Our experiences have highlighted the importance of close partnerships with on the ground stakeholders to monitor and deliver information that meets their needs, allowing stakeholders to help PGP lead the way. The creation of cross-sector collaborations is important to identify and operationalize best practices in using big data to directly address vaccine misinformation in ways that are most likely to resonate with specific populations.

Audience Take Away

  • After attending this presentation, the audience will be able to:
  •  discuss lessons learned around vaccine hesitancy in the U.S., and how those can be applied globally.
  • describe the creation and implementation of a media monitoring system to track vaccine opposition.
  • apply learnings to improve the implementation of systems to track vaccine opposition
  • more effectively leverage media monitoring and social listening tools for programs that improve population health  apply practical, hands on advice for organizations that are using social listening to inform their programs


Dr. Joe Smyser is the CEO of PGP (The Public good Projects), holds a PhD and masters in global public health, and has worked at the intersection of public health, media, and technology throughout his career. He has designed the core strategies for several of the United States’ largest social and behavior change programs; for the US CDC and FDA, Kaiser Permanente, Rockefeller Foundation and CDC Foundation, among others. During Dr. Smyser’s tenure, PGP has served as the primary health communications partner for Facebook (Meta), Tumblr, Twitter, and Tik Tok. PGP has, dutifully and often behind the scenes, been among those chiefly responsible for serving the global public accurate and timely health information. Dr. Smyser conducted his postdoctoral training at the US CDC. He is a member of the Education Advisory Board of Rutger’s University, and the Forbes Nonprofit Council. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed studies and white papers regarding various aspects of health communications. Dr. Smyser is a highly sought after speaker, participating in forums such as Aspen Ideas, SXSW, World Vaccine Congress, and American Public Health Association. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, having served in the Kingdom of Eswatini.