COVID Fatigue & Social Listening: Taking a Qualitative Approach to Consumer Trends

Dr. Katelyn Alderfer, Data Analyst, Social Media

February 23, 2021

Social Listening is More Important Than Ever as COVID Fatigue Hits 

Over the past weeks and months, the term “COVID fatigue” has been at the top of headlines; the idea that the public is so incredibly tired of a constant state of quarantine that they have moved past or just become exhausted by the idea of the pandemic. This fatigue is not just an intangible feeling though, it can be quantified through how much the public has been talking about COVID. On social channels we have seen a stark decrease in the usage of terms like “COVID-19,” “SARS-CoV-2,” etc., despite the record setting number of diagnosed cases and deaths per day from the disease. However, even though the number of references to COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 are waning, social listening around the pandemic has become more important than ever for pharma marketers as healthcare providers and patients change how they talk about the pandemic and turn to social media with passionate and even desperate pleas.  

Since March 2020, the social listening team at CMI/Compas has seen a decrease in conversations around COVID related terms (Figure 1); however, this does not necessarily mean that the conversation has disappeared in total. In fact, what our team has discovered is a shift in the way the public discusses the pandemic. Rather than consistently using terms like SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, both of which still exist in lower numbers, conversations are branching off and shifting to secondary facets of life that have been affected by the pandemic. These “secondary conversations” relate back to COVID-19 but are more about the day-to-day rather than just discussing the disease itself.  

Figure 1. Drop in COVID-19 Mentions Over Time

One such area that we have seen increases in chatter around includes schools opening back up, many of which have been closed since the pandemic began. Patients and healthcare providers alike showed concern over the thought of schools reopening, and as seen in Figure 2, spikes occurred in a timelier fashion with chatter increasing as over the summer different states discussed opening their schools. Similarly, other conversations, like bars and restaurants reopening, have seen changes over time; these are just a few of the many conversations we are seeing that branch from that initial COVID-19 conversation. 

Figure 2. Conversation Changes Over Time

And although overall conversation has lowered, patients are making it clear that they are still very concerned about the pandemic, and as cases get worse, bars, restaurants, and schools reopen, they are showing this deep concern on social media. One teacher and former cancer patient on the community site stated that she felt she couldn’t count on the schools to respect her life, and that she was not sure what all she could do to protect herself. A sentiment that was echoed by many other cancer patients, showing a need in this space for more education around breast cancer and how to stay safe during the pandemic. Again, although this was just a few posts, the sentiment showed a need for reassurance and for clarity in a time of unknown.  

Healthcare providers have shown similar sentiments, and again, are showing more concern via the content of their posts rather than just the quantity. Despite the drops in numbers, a nurse went viral recently for the passion in her posts and the reality of what it is like to be a healthcare provider right now, highlighting the misinformation around COVID that still exists for many people.  

Like this nurse, other healthcare providers are taking to social media for urgent messages to the public. They not only discuss the importance of mask wearing but the urgency of other important messages for their patients like scheduling routine screenings. 

Insights regarding COVID-19 can help marketers to better understand the needs and feelings of HCPs and consumers in the current market, allowing them to make marketing decisions that will help them to connect with their audience. Although there are fewer COVID-19 mentions than there were at the beginning of the pandemic, it is still important for marketers to be aware of them, because for some patients and healthcare providers, the effects of the pandemic are worse than ever. As marketers, it is important that we not let our guard down, and although the number of mentions appear to be decreasing, we are continuing to see changes in conversation especially as time moves on and vaccine approvals are pending. It is important that we be alert and ready to adapt and pivot to the changing feelings and conversations of our HCPs and consumers. We encourage you to reach out to your social listening team about COVID-19 reporting for your brand. We also encourage you to take advantage of CMI/Compas’ ability to personalize COVID-19 reporting in order to follow the conversations that are most important to your specific consumer and HCP markets during this unprecedented time.