Covid-19 Impact: Social media activity in the country grew 50X in early March, says Nielsen

Market research firm Nielsen said social media volume saw a whopping 50X surge in the first week of March in India in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. A senior official of the firm noted that social media buzz picked up from 0.4 million in January and 1.6 million in February to a staggering 20.3 million in March first week. The number reportedly spiked simultaneously as corona virus cases jumped from just one in January to the over 500 in March.

“Each time PM Modi addressed the nation to make announcements such as Janata Curfew and 21-day total lockdown in March, social media volume noted a jump. Celebrities, cricketers and politicians urging people to follow the lockdown and five-minute gratitude showing on Janata Curfew day were other instances,” said Prasun Basu, South Asia Zone president of Nielsen Global Connect, told newspersons in a virtual briefing call to newspersons.

With limited activity out of home, Indians are reportedly reading, contributing and influencing on social media. According to Nielsen, the total volume of Covid-19 related conversations reached 22.3 million on March 24 in the country.

Social media buzz notably began buzzing mid-January with the initial news of the outbreak of the novel corona virus in Wuhan district of China. Pandemic updates followed by campaigns such as Karo Namaste, use of hand sanitiser and masks, to Safe Hands Challenge were also noted as triggers for social media uptick during the restricted living imposed during early March.

“Social media volume doubled in the same period as pantry preparation picked up significantly when social distancing and quarantining became the new norm. There was a decline in store visits and jump in online shopping,” said Basu.

Currently, the country is under complete lockdown with exceptions in delivery of essentials such as groceries by ecommerce platforms such as BigBasket and Grofers. In e-commerce, average orders surged for staples with edible oil growing by 106%, salty snacks by 84%, soft drink by 68% and biscuit by 31% on a weekly basis in last one month till last week. Sales of hand sanitiser reported 1425% growth, face mask grew over four times, hand wash by 86%, floor and toilet cleaner by 77%.

Nielsen said that ecommerce has emerged as critical data source in this relatively data-dark period to predict market recovery and changing consumer mindset during the pandemic.