social 3408791 1920 2

How can social media help us to manage a pandemic?

Never before in history could information travel so fast during a pandemic as it does now with social media. With the rise of social distancing, more people are turning to social media to communicate and it has become a key part of many of our social lives. The amount of information that is shared through social media should not be neglected. Instead, it should be used to assist the crisis management procedures that takes place during a pandemic.

But how exactly does listening to social media help towards this direction? This blog looks at several ways that social media listening tools can be used.

Vaccine risk perception
Several factors can influence people’s willingness to get vaccinated, including risk perception. Misinformation and lack of awareness can seriously affect how people risk assess the vaccine itself against virus mortality. A social media listening tool can assist governments and organisations in examining public perception and behaviour towards vaccines. By understanding people’s risk perception, governments can accordingly adjust campaigns and take the measures necessary to sufficiently inform the public.

Pandemic misinformation
As we’ve seen with COVID-19, as people react to a pandemic, we witness an explosion of virus-related information. But unfortunately, not all this knowledge is accurate. Much of it is negative and misleading. Inaccurate information usually travels faster and produces a big volume of posts, making it difficult for the public to validate its quality. Governments and organisations could use a social media listening tool to quickly identify trending misleading information and promptly move to public announcements to prevent false news from growing too fast.

Campaign management
As discussed in vaccine perception, social media listening is an important ingredient for effective campaign management. Social media analytics provide actionable insights that include choosing the right campaign at the right time. Furthermore, it is important to understand public perception and emerging issues that will help to adjust the material and objectives of the campaign.

Understand the psychosocial effects
Using information from social media, insights can be found about people’s psychosocial issues during a pandemic. A social media listening tool can assist in investigating phrases related to mental health symptoms and phrases related to support expressions. This analysis can help understand how people cope during a pandemic and identify periods where mental health problems increase and take corrective actions. It can also assist in identifying the areas that matter the most, e.g. professional challenges, healthcare and precautionary measures, and pandemic-related awareness.

twitter 292988 1920And more…
This list is not exhaustive by any means. It is more an expression of the need not to neglect the vast amount of information that is derived from social media and how this can be used to help towards a better tomorrow during a pandemic. The uses described above are focused on the corrective actions as a result of using a social media listening tool. But this is also not limited. Similar tools can further be used for predictive analytics. For example, a social media listening tool could be used to predict outbreaks of a pandemic. This can be achieved by looking for posts from people who claim to have symptoms or have been tested positive, or confirmed cases coming from close friends and family.

In STAMINA, we are researching uses of social media listening for pandemics by building a tool that “reads” content from mainstream sources like Twitter and Reddit. The platform that we are building can find spikes in web activity for any subject, which was shown in one of our recent demonstrations. Ultimately, this will support the STAMINA project to provide better pandemic management support.