Zika: A Social Media Conversation Timeline
The Olympics are over. Performances and athletic drama may have ended, but a concerning public health issue endures: the Zika Virus became mainstream news prior to the Games, and traveled quickly through social media. Zika became a major topic of conversation on the world stage in Río, and it continues.
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) April 28, 2016
As social data zealots, we wanted to widely monitor the Zika topic and examine the effect of the Olympic Games on this conversation in real time. We leveraged Social Listening by Simply Measured, allowing us to widely monitor “Zika Virus” as a topic and zoom in on areas of interest through a dynamic dashboard.
We looked for correlations in the aggregate data and aligned trends with specific events, supported by conversational analysis from Simply Measured.
Here is the timeline of major conversational events around Zika we found on social.
Here are the volume of mentions around Zika in 2016 to date:
The first social activity appeared in early 2016, as Zika “arrived” in the mainstream media. A decline in March exhibited expected news cycle behavior. Volume stabilized…until summer, just in time for the Olympics. You can see this increased volume of activity between May and August 2016 right here:
Now let’s zoom in to examine the peaks of interest and conversation around Zika.
Summer and Zika themes combine with activity by influencers like The New York Times, Washington Post, CDC, and CNN. Common themes are summer prevention and possible vaccine development:
Social comments were driven strongly by Retweets and @Replies from CNN International’s 5.2million+ followers:
— CNN International (@cnni) June 21, 2016
The speed of communication around the topic is evidenced by the almost conflicting tweet from the CDC, which also operated a chat with their 672k+ followers, using #SaludTues:
— CDC (@CDCgov) June 21, 2016
Several media outlets report world’s top golfer, Jason Day’s decision to not attend Olympics due to Zika.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 28, 2016
Conversation gains an additional 6.5k+ mentions. Engaging Instagram video from Kelly Ripa’s 903k followers help fan the flames.
A post shared by LIVE with Kelly and Ryan (@livekellyandryan) on
Congressional recess begins for House Representatives. Numerous posts contribute to political and polarizing conversation.
Negative sentiment for this “Congress” theme of Zika topic is evident, at 35.2%.
The spread of the #Zika virus poses a serious public health risk—one we can help address by ensuring we have the resources necessary to protect the American people. That’s why President Obama continues to call on Congress for emergency funding to help fight mosquitos carrying the virus, fund research for a vaccine, and help those most at risk get tested. Click on the link in the bio to get the facts.
A post shared by The Obama White House (@obamawhitehouse) on
The White House’s 2.9 million followers contributed 31.5K interactions to this serious address, which springboarded into the next day…
The White House’s post, and CNN and ABC reports about the “first case of Zika Virus in the continental US” generate a huge amount of conversation on social. Influencers “worldstar” (Instagram) and “senatorsanders” (Facebook) lead interactions for a combined 27k, creating the highest conversation volume since February.
Data indicates the highest volume in six months, at 73.4k mentions. Influencers are widespread, as the topic tips into a hot domestic issue. Over 18% of the conversation includes “States”. Major Zika-related conversation generators that occur in this time period:
- The Telegraph publishes “Rio Olympics: which athletes have withdrawn over Zika fears?”
- August 5th: Opening Olympic Ceremony
- August 8th: Daily Mail (UK): “Brazilian crowds taunt more US athletes with chants of ‘Zika!’ during tense beach volleyball match.”
— hercircumstance (@hercircumstance) August 9, 2016
- August 18th: The Miami Herald: “Zika now spreading in Miami Beach…” There are now several documented cases in the continental US.
Zika is spreading in Miami Beach https://t.co/uRLi3Fgkju
— TIME (@TIME) August 19, 2016
- August 21st: The Olympics conclude.
— Joscha Weber (@joschaweber) August 22, 2016
What We Learned
Social Listening data suggests that Zika and the Olympic Games were often mentioned together, helping accelerate Zika as a strong top-of-mind issue around the world. The Zika topic was at its highest volume immediately before the Games, and continued directly into overlapping news, including coverage of attendance, competition, and sportsmanship.
Ryan Freeman is an Enterprise Customer Success Manager at Simply Measured and a former NCAA Swimmer/Biology Major, who quit the sport because of Michael Phelps. He has a passion for social data.