On March 11, 2020 the COVID-19 viral disease was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Moments of uncertainty and fear show us the extent to which online influence groups (we call them factions) leverage the mechanics of social media platforms to share their perspectives on the virus with fellow interest groups and spread their beliefs on how the public and private sector are acting in response to the pandemic.
Yonder is tracking ongoing conversations around COVID-19 to help brands navigate this moment of uncertainty, and take informed action to protect their reputation and integrity.
Our analysis found that consumers are engaging with information about Coronavirus based on their political inclinations.
Five percent of all online posts about COVID-19 are created by agenda-driven factions. That agenda is mostly political, and it drives 16 percent of online engagement. Our work shows the share of conversation tends to grow, because these groups are experts at using social media and the internet to spread their message and influence others.
Additionally, unlike other narratives, where we see one side of the political spectrum dominate the conversation — this one is an even split.
Brands should be aware that even straightforward, factual discussion about COVID-19 and its impacts can be co-opted by groups trying to spread their own message.
Yonder Narrative can delve into what specific factions are driving conversations, and which groups are in their sphere of influence, and joining in. This helps brands evaluate the potential risk and impact of online conversations.
When we explore posts by left- and right-leaning groups online, it is not surprising to see the Warren County faction, for example, criticize the administration for their handling of the outbreak. However, it’s interesting to see other groups jumping in on this narrative — from fans of Taylor Swift to Etsy crafters and indie game developers. Some of these factions may be unexpected in this kind of politically-charged conversation, but we are learning that the narrative is actually pulling the public to either side of the spectrum in a very real way.
It’s when faction-driven conversations jump across ideological or political lines that conversations indicate a high potential of going viral on mainstream media.
Yonder will continue to track the developing conversation to uncover context about what is trending or emerging online regarding COVID-19 — and what we can expect as some consumer habits shift, and others are perhaps reinforced.