Lupus Definition

Lupus Awareness, Selena Gomez, & Data

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What does 127,000,000 Instagram followers do for lupus awareness? Quite a lot!

Selena Gomez is the most followed person on Instagram with over 127 million followers. In addition to being a 25-year-old singer and actress, she is a Lupus Warrior who has used her platform to attract attention to the autoimmune disease before.

On September 14th, in the Instagram post embedded below, she shared with the world that she had been preparing for, and undergone, a kidney transplant. For one, this serves as a great opportunity to ensure that every person with lupus is aware of the potential kidney complications including lupus nephritis.

The post garnered over 9 million likes as Selena’s fans shared their support. And, Selena included a link to the Lupus Research Alliance for people looking to learn more.

So, what impact did her story have on lupus awareness? We look into lupus awareness, measured in a number of ways.

Money as a measure of lupus awareness

One effective measure of celebrity influence on diseases is to look at the amount of money contributed to causes or associations/alliances that benefit the cause. This measure of increased lupus awareness may even show an increased understanding of the importance of research, activity, and participation .

The President and CEO of the Lupus Research Alliance, Kenneth Farber, spoke with E! News and shared that as a result of a couple of public statements, that Selena Gomez contributed to raising over $500,000 for research funded by the alliance. This is truly an amazing bump in lupus awareness and activism by her fanbase.

However, money is not the only measure of increased lupus awareness.

lupus awareness-selena-gomez-divider1

Measuring Google search data

Google Trends is a tool created by Google to provide insight into how popular certain searches are over time. Search terms are measure relative to one another — as opposed to displaying the actual number of searches. Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term.

In the chart below, a number of terms are being compared.

  • Autoimmune disease terms
    • lupus
    • systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Selena Gomez
    • selena gomez (this is a Google search term)
    • Selana Gomez (denoted by Google as: American singer)

As you can see in the chart below, even compared to one another, there were large spikes in the amount of searches for both Selena Gomez & lupus.

Also, let’s look at the amount of traffic that Selena Gomez’s post was able to bring to the Lupus Research Alliance. From her post above, you can see that she provided the URL for the website and the name. However, it is a relatively safe assumption to believe that many people went on to Google the name of the alliance.

For comparison, the chart below looks at the differences in searches for the Lupus Research Alliance and the Lupus Foundation of America.

As you can see, Selena contributed to a giant bump in searches for the Lupus Research Alliance. However, this boost is not evident when compared to more popularly searched terms, including Selena Gomez. This suggests that this bump is quite significant, but that Selena’s search popularity is so significant that it can dwarf these search changes.

Measuring lupus awareness beyond search

So, what do people do after they search for additional information about lupus? Are people learning more about the autoimmune disease?

One way we can measure this is by looking at the public page view analysis on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a common top search result – so spikes in traffic would suggest that people are using it to learn more about lupus.

In the 4 months prior to Selena’s announcement, the average daily traffic (in page views) was: 5,216. On the day of Selena’s post, the page saw 50,819 page views — nearly 10x as many!

In the days following Selena’s Instagram post, the traffic was higher than average, as you can see in the chart below. But, that bump does not seem to be sustained.

Wikipedia Page Views for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
lupus awareness-page-views-wikipedia

Celebrity power

From the data, it seems like Selena has had a huge role in advancing lupus awareness. But, it’s important for celebrities to understand the power of their reach. Selena Gomez shared information for a respected research group. In other instances, endorsements of specific medical products have caused issues.

When Kim Kardashian posted about a morning sickness drug, it was ‘liked’ more than 450,000 times by her 42 million followers. While the drug company enjoyed the unexpected press, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t.

An FDA regulation prohibits promoting a drug without mentioning the risks of the medication. This applies to tv ads, print ads, and social media. Kardashian received a warning letter from the FDA and removed the post. This shows the power of celebrity and, to be fair, an understanding by the FDA that ad-hoc endorsements by high profile figures effectively function as ads.


Hopes for the future

Best wishes to Selena Gomez and all Lupus Warriors. Efforts like this are beneficial as they result in both money being directed towards research efforts and they increase the level of understanding about lupus.

As understanding about lupus spreads, it will provide other people with knowledge about the disease — and that may help all people battling “invisible illnesses.”

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