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Analyzing Local Social Media Perceptions and Sentiment for a Public Health Client

NorthStar's Social Media Intelligence team completed the first round of the most significant and important research effort we've ever embarked upon.

We helped a research firm and their public health client analyze the local social media perceptions & sentiment towards the COVID vaccine in their region vs the national averages, which will inform local messaging strategy about the importance of getting vaccinated.

We came to two very clear conclusions:

1) COVID-19 vaccine perception is the single most important social media analysis topic in the history of social media.

2) We want to (and can, starting today) help every local community succeed in their vaccination distribution.

Initial Lockdown (February-May 2020): Social Media Analysis Shows COVID Conversation Exploding

Within a few weeks of the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 had already smashed the social media conversation volume record as compared to every other topic ever discussed since social media began.

To give context, every single day during the month of March 2020, more conversations were happening around the world about COVID-19 than is typically seen on Super Bowl Sunday, one of the largest single-day global events of the year. In other words, there was at least one Super Bowl's worth of social conversation about the pandemic every day, as citizens around our globe began experiencing the tragic and significant impact of this virus.

Stuck at home in quarantine, people took to social media to stay in touch with friends, family and the world around them. They used social media to discuss every topic imaginable, from serious issues like social justice, the economy, politics, public health, remote work & education, to grateful messages praising healthcare & other essential frontline workers, to debating whether or not sports should be happening, to joyful home moments & jokes meant to bring a smile to our faces. They discussed every brand, product & industry just like they normally would, but they did it through the new lens of how people and organizations around the world were reacting to the dire situation, and (most importantly) what organizations were doing to support those in need during this trying time.

Post-Lockdown (June-December 2020): Social Media Analysis Indicates Trouble For Vaccine Acceptance

After the initial shock of the pandemic, talk on social media then switched to the vaccine development effort that was necessary if we were to ever to get back to "normalcy" again. Perceptions of the vaccine varied widely depending on who was posting. The already serious emotions felt towards the vaccine were exacerbated by the impending political season and the history of how our nation has treated its various citizens (both from an equality and a medical standpoint).

A perfect storm of emotion was brewing, ranging from hope of the vaccine's success, to anger over a myriad of issues (from politics to "pandemic fatigue" to historical treatment of citizens by the medical industry, and more), to fear & distrust, as citizens heard information (and disinformation) about the vaccine and had to decide a) whether to believe what they were hearing, and b) whether or not to get the shot when it became available.

Vaccine Approval & Distribution (2021 So Far): Social Media Analysis Sees Fear & Distrust Still Prominent

As the spring of 2021 begins to emerge, the virus is still with us. We're still being asked to stay at home whenever possible, and wear masks when in public. Millions of Americans are still suffering significant losses.

At the same time, multiple vaccine trials have been successful, and distribution is in progress. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon...if everyone gets vaccinated.

The problem, however, is that 2020's negative emotions are still with us.

While the election season is past us, there is lingering anger for many across our nation. There is significant fear & distrust among many communities who are wary to get vaccinated, even if they are in the priority eligibility groups. There is sadness for all that we have gone through, as well as anxiety while waiting our turn to get the shot. All of these negative emotions currently are stronger than the hope, joy & love felt by those starting to get vaccinated and posting on social media.

The Problem: Public Health Communicators Are Acting With Blind Spots By Not Conducting Local Social Media Analysis First

This fear & distrust presents our newest & greatest challenge as a nation, particularly for those in the public health space that need to communicate effectively to every citizen across the country, so that everyone gets vaccinated and we can go "back to normal" (whatever that may look like).

However, many regional, state & local public health organizations are acting with blind spots.

While they are putting out (well-intentioned) messaging to its citizens (on social media and elsewhere), the messages are falling flat, or even exacerbating the fear & distrust in their local community. The reason for the communications' failure is often because local consumer perception research on social media was not done beforehand, which would have helped to gauge the temperature of the local community.

The Solution: Use Social Media Analysis Of Vaccine Perception to Understand Your Region's Emotions & Find Advocates

My Social Media Intelligence team at NorthStar was recently honored with the opportunity to help a research firm and public health organization analyze the social media conversation drivers around the COVID vaccine, comparing the sentiment and emotions of their local community towards the vaccine vs. the national averages. We helped them understand what specifically was driving the anger, fear, distrust and sadness in their local community, while also identifying local social media influencers who were advocating for the vaccine and driving hope & joy in their messaging.

We broke down the analysis geographically (ex: different regions within a state) as well as by sub-topic, such as those particularly worried about upcoming variants and those worried due to pre-existing conditions. This allowed us to see which specific sub-topics were over-indexing for fear/distrust vs. anger vs. sadness vs. hope, when compared to the rest of the state and national averages.

This research was based solely on what citizens themselves had communicated on public-facing social media posts, blogs, public online forums and local news articles. This information was available via a search query we built in our Talkwalker tool, and helped provide the public health organization with a baseline of their local community's feelings towards the vaccine, as well as a roadmap for what types of vaccine-related messaging will resonate well over the coming months. This research provided crucial insights that informed how the research firm set up their next research phases: surveys and virtual focus groups with local citizens.

The Time is Now: Every Day That Vaccine Fear & Distrust Lingers & Festers on Social Media, Local Communities Suffer

The COVID vaccination distribution program is arguably the most important nationwide effort our country has undertaken in recent memory. Its success is crucial in order to end suffering, bring communities back together, re-open businesses & schools and begin our economy's recovery from this terrible virus.

Therefore, this is the most important moment for social media analysis since the concept of social media was first introduced to our world.

Social media analysis provides us with both a historical and real-time view into how citizens are feeling about a myriad of topics. We may never see a more important and timely topic to analyze than perceptions of the COVID vaccine.

This analysis is crucial to help our public health leaders around the country to communicate effectively to their local communities with customized messaging that resonates and persuades.

If you are...

...a national pharmacy brand.....

....a state or regional public health organization...

...a regional hospital network....

...a marketing firm in charge of communications for a public health client....

...or a business leader in an industry that needs the vaccine's success in order to fully recover.... need to leverage this nationwide social media conversation analysis and ask us to focus an analysis on your region, to ensure the success of our collective national goal: equal & timely vaccination distribution to all local communities.

My team is already set up to analyze COVID vaccine conversation anywhere in the United States, going all the way back to the first stages of the pandemic in January 2020. We have the ability to quickly zero in on a particular region, identifying what's driving conversation in your region and who is influential on social media in your local community. Finally, we have the ability to filter for any subset of the conversation that is relevant to your efforts, from crucial sub-topics like the worry about variants or re-opening schools safely to the more industry-specific worries like when it will be OK to attend live sports or concerts again.

All of these specific worries your community has are dependent on one broader, common goal: getting citizens in your community vaccinated.

We're ready to help with this important effort today. There's no time to waste.

Please reach out so that we can get started.

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