DOI: 10.3390/bs14020128 ISSN: 2076-328X

Analysis of Pharmaceutical Companies’ Social Media Activity during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact on the Public

Sotirios Gyftopoulos, George Drosatos, Giuseppe Fico, Leandro Pecchia, Eleni Kaldoudi
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • General Psychology
  • Genetics
  • Development
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

The COVID-19 pandemic, a period of great turmoil, was coupled with the emergence of an “infodemic”, a state when the public was bombarded with vast amounts of unverified information from dubious sources that led to a chaotic information landscape. The excessive flow of messages to citizens, combined with the justified fear and uncertainty imposed by the unknown virus, cast a shadow on the credibility of even well-intentioned sources and affected the emotional state of the public. Several studies highlighted the mental toll this environment took on citizens by analyzing their discourse on online social networks (OSNs). In this study, we focus on the activity of prominent pharmaceutical companies on Twitter, currently known as X, as well as the public’s response during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communication between companies and users is examined and compared in two discrete channels, the COVID-19 and the non-COVID-19 channel, based on the content of the posts circulated in them in the period between March 2020 and September 2022, while the emotional profile of the content is outlined through a state-of-the-art emotion analysis model. Our findings indicate significantly increased activity in the COVID-19 channel compared to the non-COVID-19 channel while the predominant emotion in both channels is joy. However, the COVID-19 channel exhibited an upward trend in the circulation of fear by the public. The quotes and replies produced by the users, with a stark presence of negative charge and diffusion indicators, reveal the public’s preference for promoting tweets conveying an emotional charge, such as fear, surprise, and joy. The findings of this research study can inform the development of communication strategies based on emotion-aware messages in future crises.

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