Posted July 6, 2020
Top image: UofSC President Bob Caslen. Photo from his Twitter feed.
Campaigns to encourage South Carolinians to wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus are receiving a small but positive response, according to an analysis by the University of South Carolina Social Media Insights Lab.
There are several initiatives in the state to promote responsible behavior:
- The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce through its #WearItSC Challenge is encouraging the use of face coverings, saying that responsible behavior is necessary to protect the economy, lives and jobs.
- The City of Columbia has the Resilient Columbia Pledge, which asks small businesses to encourage face coverings and promote social distancing.
- The University of South Carolina is asking students, faculty and alumni to take the #IPledgeColumbia and follow public health guidelines.
The Insights Lab reviewed 1,007 social media posts made since June 18 that are related to these campaigns. Almost 85 percent of the posts that express sentiment spoke favorably about the campaigns. (Many posts were informational and did not convey sentiment.)
“These posts are a small part of a much broader conversation about COVID-19,” said Jack Landess, an Insights Lab analyst. “Posts with sentiment support mask wearing and responsible behavior. Just about the only negative sentiment came from people disgusted with those who refuse to wear masks.”
The Insights Lab used artificial intelligence to better understand emotions associated with the comments. Indicative of the support these campaigns are receiving, the most common emotion was joy. Typical comments endorsed the campaigns and urged others to join.
The lab found the top influencers for these conversations were Gov. Henry McMaster, the University of South Carolina, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, UofSC President Bob Caslen and UofSC women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.
About the Social Media Insights Lab
The lab is part of the College of Information and Communications. It is used for teaching, academic research and public reports intended to help people better understand issues of the day.
How is sentiment calculated?
The lab uses software developed by Crimson Hexagon, now known as BrandWatch following a merger. The software gauges the emotional tone of conversations using auto-sentiment artificial intelligence technology. This feature is useful for identifying patterns within large sets of social media data, but it should be noted that auto-sentiment has its limits. For example, it does not always recognize sarcasm, nor does it account for posts which may express more than one emotion.