COVID-19 Social Conversations Offer Action Items for Communicators

During the last several weeks, COVID-19 has dominated social media, all but wiping out other topics and news items. COVID-19 has amassed upward of 197 million Twitter mentions worldwide during the last two weeks, Sprout Social told PRNEWS.

Communications pros face a conundrum. Brands that don't provide health care, food and related services to the public are wondering whether or not they should bother monitoring social media conversations around the disease.

Savvy communicators know they should. Monitoring social conversations around COVID-19 can help communicators formulate action plans during this uncertain period, Sprout Social senior manager of content and communications Alicia Johnston argues. Social listening helps PR pros “develop effective response strategies, make deeper connections with their community and build lasting trust that will see them through this global crisis,” she adds.

Some non-health care brands are monitoring conversations about their virus-related efforts. For example, luxury brand LVMH increased online mentions 166 percent (vs March 2019) and engagement 551 percent on news that it's producing hand sanitizer and masks, Talkwalker data shows. Nike's #Playinside and #Playfortheworld effort saw brand mentions jump 17 percent March 21, the day the campaign launched, vs the previous day.

PlanetFitness saw mentions rise 760 percent during the period March 15-24 on news of the gym chain's at-home work out, Talkwalker says. Not a surprise that Zoom found conversations about it spiking. From March 1-24, Zoom and "meeting" returned nearly 1 million engagements, an increase of 9,580 percent from February.

Notable data from Sprout includes:

  • The economic impact is reflected in 1.8 percent of the conversation (3.6 million tweets), but it is on an upward swing, with conversations beginning to spike March 19
  • 9 percent of total conversations (17.6 million tweets) focused on the health care system, hospital resources and status of medical equipment
  • Posts about the spread of the virus (growth in cases, flattening the curve) are reflected in about 7 percent of the conversation (13.5 million tweets)
  • Social distancing, quarantine and shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders made up 2.5 percent of conversations (~5 million tweets)
  • Parenting in the COVID-19 era (e.g. school closures, e-learning options) saw more than 2.75 million tweets, representing 1.3 percent of the conversation
  • More than half a million tweets are focused on remote work, with companies communicating policies and employees seeking and sharing best practices

So, how should communicators put these statistics to good use? Provide audiences value in response to topics like the above, even if it’s a new area for your brand. (That is, if your brand can speak from a place of relevance and authority.)

“This is the time to try something new—having your CEO offer guidance on LinkedIn, experimenting with TikTok,” said Carreen Winters, chair of reputation management and chief strategy officer at MWWPR, during a free PRNEWS webinar about communicating around the virus. Yonder sponsored the webinar. A free replay will be available tomorrow.

Winters said LinkedIn and other platforms "are hungry" for thought leadership about how the business world is responding. Similarly, consumers are looking for infotainment and up-to-date information. “Be sure to offer [audiences] value...rather than trying to sell them something, which can come off as tone-deaf,” she said.

She also argued that paid social should not necessarily be taken off the table. “As long as we’re not trying to sell something that is not useful.” For example, a gas company that offers to fill the tanks of health care workers could use paid social to spread its offer. “This is the time to get busy with social and give it a chance.” Naturally, that starts with listening to what people are tweeting and posting about daily.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.