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USC Insights Index: Pandemic conversations growing

Posted March 12, 2020

South Carolinians are talking on social media about the coronavirus in large numbers and those conversations reflect an increasingly serious tone, according to a new analysis by the Social Media Insights Lab at the University of South Carolina. 

The lab used sophisticated Crimson Hexagon software to analyze more than 32,000 posts made in a 38-hour period ending at 2 p.m. Thursday. This is nearly half of the number of posts that the lab analyzed in the previous ten-day period.

Moving into March 12, the lab saw a significant increase in posts using the term pandemic. The World Health Organization is the top influencer in this conversation. Previously in other topics relevant to coronavirus, President Donald Trump has been the key influencer. “If comments on social media are any indication, people in South Carolina are now taking the coronavirus threat more seriously,” said Kaitlyn Park, Insights Lab manager.

Researchers found the largest category of posts continues to be related to testing for the virus, including concerns about cost and availability. Recent news that celebrity Tom Hanks and Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert have tested positive for the virus were top retweets.

“Earlier in the week, we saw comments making light of the situation and suggesting the pandemic is a hoax,” said Park.  “That changed Wednesday when the NCAA announced fans would not be allowed to watch its basketball tourney, the NBA cancelled its season and President Trump addressed the nation.”

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