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How Coronavirus is Trending over the Internet and Social Media

The world has gone through a tremendous upheaval with the coronavirus pandemic, forcing people into self-quarantine. A lot of nations have forced lockdowns on citizens to contain the spread of the virus. According to WHO’s Live Status report, there are 1,439,516 confirmed cases worldwide with 85,711 cases of death as of 10th April 2020.

This has led to a colossal rise in social media user behavior over the past few weeks. Lockdowns and self-quarantines have made social media platforms the next logical space for people to interact. On one hand, where social distancing is being practiced by people, social media platforms have maintained a safe space for people to interact, meet and mingle.

The outbreak of the pandemic has exploded over the internet and social media platforms have seen a startling shift in its trends.

How did social media take off with coronavirus?

For social media, it all began with the first few mentions of positive cases of Covid-19 in the US. The media outlets and their online subsidiaries were covering the events in February, still, the mentions were almost insignificant in comparison to search trends on Google and other social media platforms.

In a particular case in the US, California, where the patient had no travel history or exposure to an infected person, social media started to bubble. South Korean Pop band BTS also canceled their tour during the same time. With major world events being postponed indefinitely, like the NBA games, the 2020 Olympic games, etc. internet exploded with conversations about the pandemic.

Global Search Trends

As of the latest search trends on Google for the past 3 months, there was a very sharp ascend for the search term ‘Coronavirus’, particularly from the third week of February. It was during this time, particularly on 17th Feb when WHO issued its first guidelines on mass gatherings and taking care of ill travelers.

The search volumes for the term increased till the middle of March and then started to drop gradually after hitting peak popularity of 100. ‘Facebook’ being the most searched term on Google, maintained a steady graph in comparison.

During the peak month of March, a lot of conversations happened, from various celebrities and politicians diagnosed positive for COVID-19 to various international events and tours getting postponed. As of now, many nations are seriously considering extending the lockdown period, American President Donald Trump announced that the lockdown will be extended till 30th April and some nations are considering a 6-month lockdown as well.

Corona pandemic has crossed a mark of 20 million mentions in the last few days itself. For the past 24 hours, “What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?” has been the 5th most searched question on Google with the other 4 positions also occupied by corona-related questions.

The search results for symptoms of COVID-19 for the past 4 months were graphed as follows:

Google has recorded a significantly increased search of terms related to Corona. Over the past few weeks, US citizens have significantly searched the internet for protection against Covid-19 along with the symptoms. The term ‘Face Mask’ hit the peak popularity of a hundred while other terms like Hand Sanitizer, Social Distancing, and Hand Washing maintained a relatively low search interest in comparison to ‘Face Mask’.

How have social media platforms recorded user behavior?

There has been a significant increase in social media usage during the past few weeks. Pew Research Center found that over half (55 percent) of US adults got news from social media, this naturally suggests that there has been an increase in social media usage.

Reboot Foundation has released a report that suggests that social media is currently bloating with fake news and misinformation on Coronavirus. The more time people spend on platforms like Twitter, the less informed they are on the virus’ spread and its prevention. Heavy users of social media are also more likely to take a lackadaisical attitude toward the pandemic in general, the report found.

In a survey of 1,000 individuals of different ages, genders, and nationalities, they found out that almost 1/3 of the people believe in the misinformation being spread on social media. For instance, 10 percent of the public thinks that regularly rinsing their nose with saline will help prevent the virus. A whopping 12 percent believe that COVID-19 was created by people. Reboot’s researchers found that the more time people spend on social media, the more they believe coronavirus myths.

In the wake of this, various social media platforms have come together to take off misinformation from their websites.

Facebook is running a ‘Coronavirus Information Centre’, an initiative they hope will help people find information and tips, on top of existing measures introduced to knock back scams, ads, and other sources of misinformation. Since March 23rd, Facebook has started connecting government health organizations and UN health agencies, guiding them to use Messenger in their response to the pandemic.

Just like many social media platforms, Twitter is also redirecting its users to national health organizations by searching terms related to Coronavirus. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have partnered with various 3rd party fact-checking organizations to identify fake news and misinformation during the pandemic.

Facebook has also released a $100 million fund to support journalists along with a $25 million grant to local news channels and fact-checkers.

What do the brands say?

Though social media platforms have seen an overall increase in user activity, the online presence of brands has seen a significant decline in page visits and engagements. Instagram took the hardest hit overall, with a 14% drop in engagement rate by followers this week versus the previous three weeks. Facebook has seen a drop rate of 13.5% and Twitter saw a decline of 7% in engagement.

Industry like Alcohol, Fashion, Financial Services, Food and Beverages, Home décor, Higher-Studies, etc. have seen a significant drop in their engagement with their audiences. The healthcare industry and beauty industry on the other hand have seen a spike in their engagement with audiences on various social media platforms. Twitter however saw an increase in the engagement rate of news agencies.

Social media is never a constant and in a crisis such as these, what route their graphs take is certainly difficult to predict. Marketers and online business owners are perplexed by the dramatically changing social media landscape and this very reason makes it important for us to consolidate data that can make us reflect and help us strategize our course of action in the coming future.

We hope you stay safe and stay indoors during these challenging times!

Kelsey Perez

A present marketer, editor, and implementer. She aims to utilize her knowledge acquired while working on a professional desk to craft engaging content for users, marketing thought leaders and companies that have their hands full with clients and projects.

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