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Coronavirus: Digital analysis of online conversations around COVID-19

• April 1, 2020

As the coronavirus leaves an increasing number of us in our homes and on our electronic devices, many public-facing organizations are wondering what the online conversations look like right now and how they can plug into this new normal.

To demonstrate some of these capabilities, Rational 360 looked at more than 300 million U.S. based online posts around the coronavirus since its discovery on December 1st, through 4 p.m. on March 31, to assess the trajectory of the conversation, audiences reached, etc. Using a custom string of relevant keywords and phrases, Rational 360 looked at multiple sources for these posts, including news articles, comments, blogs, forums, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram posts. The analysis revealed a number of potentially relevant insights:

INSIGHT 1: Conversation around the coronavirus was more focused on treating the virus than the economic implications of the pandemic. Nearly 5.7 million posts around the coronavirus focus around the economy. Comparatively, more than 22 million posts mentioned terms relating to treatment, such as “hospital”, “ventilator”, or “vaccine”, indicating more focus around the virus itself than its economic implications.

INSIGHT 2: The coronavirus has caused Anthony Fauci’s online popularity to surpass the level of many A-list celebrities. During 2019, Anthony Fauci was mentioned fewer than 25 times per day online on average. Since press coverage around Fauci increased around 2/25, Fauci has been mentioned an average of more than 30,000 times per day. Despite not having a Twitter account, Fauci’s online popularity was ahead of A-list celebrities with large Twitter followings such as Dwayne Johnson (7,100 mentions per day), Ellen Degeneres (20,300 mentions per day), and Leonardo Dicaprio (3,400 mentions per day).

INSIGHT 3: Mentions of “social distancing” became popular with politically engaged audiences earlier than mainstream audiences. Shortly after the WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, tweets promoting social distancing by politically engaged users such as Dan Rather, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Justin Amash reached a politically focused audience, generating nearly 300,000 mentions on 3/12. By 3/16, mentions of social distancing skyrocketed to nearly 1.6 million after tweets by Ivanka Trump, FOX News, and the CDC reached larger, more mainstream audiences.

INSIGHT 4: Within posts mentioning social distancing, Americans were most concerned with durations of time. Within conversation around social distancing, terms indicating increments of time such as “week”, “weeks”, “hours”, and “months” were mentioned more than any other topic, totaling nearly 20 percent of all posts around social distancing. Comparatively, posts focusing on food–the second-most popular topic–which included terms such as “food” and “tea” accounted for 9 percent of posts around social distancing.

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