Social listening analysis of COVID-19 vaccines: market research guide

Anna Bredava
by Anna Bredava on February 18, 2021

Every day millions of people share their opinions, thoughts, and feelings online. They create social media posts, leave comments on videos and forums, and write blog posts. For many of us, it's exciting content, but for marketers and brands, it’s a gold mine of consumer data that can potentially revolutionize their product and business strategy.

Brands have access to different tools when it comes to market research and product research: 

  • Polls

  • Focus groups

  • Surveys

and so on.

But these tools have a downside: you can only uncover insights based on the questions you ask. While you are able to get the exact answers you need, the way you phrase questions and highlight certain issues shapes the answers of your respondents and interviewees. Thus, the responses may come out a bit biased.

To battle these issues, you can add social listening to your market research tool stack. It takes the opposite route — social listening gathers online conversations dedicated to your topic of interest and analyzes them, breaking down your audiences, reputation, brand awareness, and so on. It takes organic unbiased data and organizes it in such a way that it starts making sense.

We at Awario are hands-on learners so we better show you how to conduct product research with social listening than write about it. And what’s the most discussed product on social media right now? COVID-19 vaccines!

There are multiple vaccination options available right now, so how do people choose which one to go with? How do they feel about COVID-19 vaccines in general? How could companies improve their service, make their offer more appealing, and help people more effectively?

All these questions can be answered with social listening!

Market research with social listening: COVID-19 vaccines 

There are three major vaccine brands at the moment: Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. All three are used around the world, from the USA to South Korea. To figure out how people feel about them, what they pay attention to when they mention the vaccines, and what affects their decision to vaccinate we used Awario. This blog post is a blueprint for market research that you can copy for your own product.

You can grab Awario's free trial here and follow along if you want to!

Step 1: Setting up monitoring alerts for Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines

To gather social listening data I set up monitoring alerts for the products I wanted to research: the three most popular COVID-19 vaccines. 

Awario Tip: I also recommend monitoring your competitors: that way you’ll have another set of analytics to benchmark your results against. Additionally, you can find out what people like and dislike about your competitors’ products and use this knowledge to improve your own product. 

I’ve set up a monitoring alert in Awario for each of the vaccines, so I was able to compare them with each other as well as see analytics of each vaccine. The tool allows you to choose from multiple criteria to make your monitoring efforts more focused. These criteria include:

  • Sources of the conversations 

  • Locations

  • Languages

  • Time frame 

Since the vaccines are distributed globally, I didn’t limit monitoring to any specific countries, but if you are interested in a specific local market, I highly recommend doing that. On the screenshot you can see the settings for the monitoring alerts I set up: product name became the keywords, and I didn't touch the rest of the settings since my goal was to analyze as much data as possible. 

Pfizer's monitoring alert settings

When you conduct market research, if your product's name could be used in another context (Apple, Tesla), you can add negative keywords to make sure you only get relevant data. 

Once I created monitoring alerts for the vaccines, Awario immediately started collecting and analyzing online data. I've set up monitoring two months ago, however, Awario is able to find and analyze historical data, thus, some of the conversations analyzed date back to 2020. As you see on the screenshot, I didn't select a specific date range, but working with analytics, I mostly limited analyzed data to the last 3 months.

We now have access to tons of social listening analytics, for some, it may seem a bit overwhelming. So let's look at the essential metrics for market research one by one.

Step 2: Checking share of voice and brand awareness of the vaccines

Before I could dive into audience analytics, sentiment or reviews, I needed to estimate how popular these vaccines are. Awario shows how many conversations they generated and how many people saw these conversations.

In addition to that,  Awario Insights shows you the reason behind sudden spikes in the number of mentions — a reason for this could be a post by an influencer or a new emerging trend.

Here's the number of mentions graph for the Moderna vaccine. In one month, it managed to generate more than five hundred thousand conversations, with prominent spikes at the end of January and the middle of February. On February 11th, Moderna saw a spike in mentions caused by a tweet by Kyle Griffin, MSNBC's producer. He tweeted that the USA signed a contract with Pfizer and Moderna. 

The number of Moderna vaccine's mentions

The January spike in mentions was caused by a tweet from Moderna itself: it announced that their vaccine proved to be effective against the new variant of the virus which brought them a 208% growth in the number of mentions. 

Since I have alerts set up for three products, I can easily calculate Share of Voice for each of them, effectively comparing their brand awareness against each other. I did this by turning to the Alert Comparison dashboard and selecting the three vaccines. 

The share of voice analysis for Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca

As you see, the Pfizer vaccine takes up almost half of the conversation around COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna generates more conversation than AstraZeneca but loses when it comes to the reach of those conversations. That means that there are more influential accounts and websites talking about AstraZeneca than about Moderna.

All in all, I can say that while each of the vaccines has a high brand awareness level, Pfizer is the one enjoying the public spotlight. 

Step 3: Looking at the vaccines' reputation

The next thing to check out is the product's reputation — this is represented by the sentiment analysis widget. Awario analyzes the overall sentiment of all the conversations around the product and assigns sentiment to each conversation simultaneously.

As my first move, I went on and checked sentiment for each of the vaccines. Here's a sentiment analysis of the conversations around the Moderna vaccine. 

Moderna's sentiment analysis

As you see, the sentiment graph also gives you access to Insights which breakdown what caused a large amount of negative and positive sentiment.

For example, this tweet by a doctor says that "A new phase II study from Moderna shows that half doses (50 µg) appear to be as good as full doses (100 µg) at generating neutralizing antibodies." The tweet caused a 285% increase in the number of positive mentions on February 15. 

Once again, since I'm tracking the mentions of three different vaccines, I can compare them against each other. 

Sentiment analysis of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca

The best positive/negative sentiment ratio belongs to Moderna, and Pfizer is an unfortunate leader when it comes to negative conversations. From there, we can go to the Mention Feed to take a look at the negative conversations and see what's wrong.

When we go through Pfizer's mentions, we discover a lot of mentions by influential media talking about the availability of the vaccine. Many negative conversations are related to shortages or the mistakes of distributors — like in Japan, where they had to throw away a large shipment of the vaccine because of a minor mistake. 

Step 4: Examining the audience that talks about the vaccines

Market analysis sometimes reminds me of looking at exquisite art — I go from looking at the big picture to paying attention to the details. Brand awareness and sentiment are like big strokes that you notice first — these metrics allow you to understand what's happening with the product at first glance. To dive deeper and understand who stands behind those conversations I wanted to go through the demographic insights extracted from the conversations around the vaccines. 

Here's what Awario is able to tell you about a product's target audience:

  • Their gender
  • Where they live
  • Languages they speak
  • What websites they use
  • Account types: whether conversation comes from a personal or business account
  • Most active users
  • Most influential users

For example, here's the breakdown of the locations where mentions of Pfizer come from. If I move my mouth on the map, I can see how many conversations come from a particular country.

The countries that generate Pfizer's mentions

As for gender, there are more men talking about Pfizer than women.

The gender breakdown of users talking about Pfizer

If we look at the type of accounts that talk about the Pfizer vaccine, we find that 85,9% of them belong to people rather than represent media, companies, or state organizations.

The breakdown of account types talking about Pfizer

That means that while most influential mentions of the vaccine come from media or governmental institutions, it's actively discussed by regular people who are explaining why they are going or not going to get a vaccine, sharing their experience of vaccination, arguing about its safety, and so on. This kind of data is the crème de la crème of market research. It shows how people actually feel about your product and what you can change to improve it. 

Most influential mentions of Pfizer vaccine

Step 5: Key topics of the discussions around the vaccines

Now is the time to dive into the actual conversations about Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca Awario found. Before examining individual social media posts and articles dedicated to the vaccines, I wanted to check out the Topic cloud. This widget lets you see the words and phrases commonly used with your product. 

Let's take a look at AstraZeneca's Topic cloud:

Topic cloud for AstraZeneca

The most obvious words are vaccines (vacuna in Spanish), Oxford since the full name of the vaccine is Oxford-AstraZeneca, and COVID-19. What's more interesting are other words and combinations which hint at what topics dominate the conversation:

  • Effectiveness indicates that one of the main topics is the success of the vaccine (7.5 thousand mentions).
  • South Africa relates to the discussions around the new variant of COVID-19. People are wondering if the vaccine works against these new variants (15.2 thousand mentions). In addition to that, South Africa and India are often mentioned together due to the fact that South Africa decided to ship a large number of vaccines it received from the Serum Institute of India since it doesn't work against the South African variant of the virus. 
  • COVAX refers to the global vaccine program to spread vaccines around the world. People are mentioning it when discussing when vaccination will be available for them

The Topic cloud works as a treasure map by giving us some pointers on what topics should be the most important when it comes to our product but to truly know what customers think of it we need to look at the conversations at hand. Awario allows you to sort, filter, and group them in different ways for convenience.

I've filtered the Mention Feed for AstraZeneca to only show me languages in English from social media and sorted them by the number of comments and replies. Immediately, I found a lot of social media posts that doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine or its side-effects.

The main issues people seem to have with the vaccine are its side-effects and the fact that it allegedly doesn't protect against the new variants of COVID-19. To be fair there was a lot of positive feedback as well. If I were actually conducting research for AstraZeneca, I'd suggest the company either change their marketing strategy or product to address these problems.

In conclusion

This is the basic workflow for market research — of course, you can strengthen and escalate it in your own practice. You can also combine social listening with other forms of market research, for example, contact people who posted a thoughtful review of your product and invite them for an interview or a focus group. 

In the comments, let's talk about market research! Have you ever tried social listening for gathering product feedback? Alternatively, you can tell me how the vaccinations are going in your country — after all, as Awario showed us, it's the main topic around the world right now!

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