Social Pulse: A Craving for Understanding

By: Nicole Martin, MPH

April 2, 2020

Clarabridge Analytics
Clarabridge Engage
Customer Emotion
Customer Experience
Digital Customer Service

“Social distancing” and new policies require thoughtful, reactive, and direct connection to consumers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding—that feeling of being heard, of knowledge, or of clarity — drives every interaction as typical communication changes and feelings of isolation set in. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave society with a great degree of uncertainty across all business verticals and social norms. With businesses turning off survey programs and call centers becoming backlogged, channels for feedback and expression continue to shrink. Society is leveraging Twitter as a townhall to fulfill that craving and to try to piece together the next steps.[1] Through conversations related to “social distancing”, “stay at home”, and related topic variations we begin to see the business choices that provoke friction and those that create long-term consumer trust and loyalty.

Date of Data Pull: 3/30/2020 10:31AM
Source: Twitter, API Connectors
Current Volume: 4,595,852
Date Range: March 12, 2020- March 31, 2020
Tweets Related to COVID-19 & Supplemental Topics Classification Models Used: WHO Framework Model, Emotions Model, & Industry Specific Models

The Findings

Socioeconomic challenges, such as the Great Depression, require companies to make swift decisions that determine their ability to withstand a volatile market. In a Forbes article published after the first half of 1930, Merryle Rukeyser wrote, “the recession has been selective, not universal.” [2] COVID-19’s impact on industries and the corresponding consumer perceptions behave similarly. Policies related to “social distancing” incite emotions towards industries at varying levels. Healthcare, Media, and Retail, shown below, exhibit the highest levels of emotional intensity, indicating that companies within these industries ignore these discussions at their own risk.


Figure 1: Top Topics With Mentions of Policies/Procedures

Figure 1 shows top topics of conversation related to the COVID19 response and the intensity of emotions expressed within each topic.


Prevention policies, such as “stay at home” orders, disproportionately impact industries and their consumers. Solutions chosen by companies to adapt to new policies spark individual tweets, where the intensity of emotions varies. With internet usage up between 50 to 70% as a result of the pandemic, consumer concerns voiced through social media generate communal conversations. [3] Left unnoticed, communal conversations convert one intense tweet into a viral emotionally charged trend.


Figure 2: Top Emotions Associated with COVID-19 Responses by Businesses/Topics

Figure 2 shows emotions expressed when filtered to conversations about business/behavior topics in the context of the COVID-19 response.


“Social distancing” and its various forms bring to center stage collective-action policies. Above shows the intensity of frustration, confusion, and hope people express as businesses communicate their policy accommodations and commitment to their communities.

Clarabridge identifies sentence types using Natural Language Understanding. Within a tweet Clarabridge can discern if the user is asking for help, offering a suggestion, or threatening to discontinue business with an organization. Capabilities such as “sentence type” reduce the noise of social media to isolate the feedback crucial to companies. In conjunction with emotional intensity, below we can see how strongly individuals feel about their suggestions, requests, and threats to churn.


Figure 3: Retail Conversation Types



Figure 3: Using Clarabridge, Retail conversations are bucketed into specific sentence types to identify suggestions, requests and churn risk and the intensity of emotion associated with each type.


With less feedback channels available, people take to social media (as seen above) to reach out to companies with requests, passionate suggestions for changes, and a desire to take their business elsewhere if left unnoticed.

Business success often depends on a company’s ability to connect with consumers, especially in times of socioeconomic upheaval. Companies that withstood the Great Depression invested in advertising, specifically campaigns which expressed empathy and compassion towards consumers

in a time of great uncertainty.[4] C.F. Martin & Company, the manufacturer of Martin Guitars since 1833, created an ad campaign during the Great Depression that centered around fairness: whether shopping at a department store or a local mom & pop shop, guitar purchasers could expect the same pricing. Martin Guitars’ commitment to small business owners and ability to clearly communicate that through product innovation and policy led to business success in a time where individuals reduced non-essential spending.[5] In like manner today, individuals across social media crave connection and action to validate their experiences, rather than advertisements. They want to see that their needs – and the needs of their loved ones and community – are acknowledged and fulfilled. Companies that can rapidly innovate to meet those needs form positive digital conversations. Inability to clearly communicate communal consideration triggers friction and frustrations.

Ads in the Great Depression connected Americans to companies. Today, business leaders show their compassion through direct interaction with consumers via social media and other channels. Receptivity and responsiveness to consumer concerns, opinions, and needs by way of direct outreach shows understanding, the need everyone deeply craves now in socially distant times. People seek “socially distant” connections and express their opinions through the familiarity of social media. New policies and regulations from health officials continue to unfold, disrupt “normal” life, and emphasize the importance of collective partnership. Businesses will need to react promptly with communal intent, meeting the needs of their customers by listening through their preferred communication channels and conveying receptive messages.


Looking for an opportunity to visit museums around the world you have always wanted to get to?

What’s Next

We see society beginning to embrace the collectivist response required to ease the pandemic. However, as news of “stay at home” orders creeping into the early summer months gain traction, we will track the emotional impact of a “stir-crazy” world. We will explore the economic and industry impacts of businesses halting operations and entering a dormant period. I will look at transformations across industry verticals as industries address unique adversities. Together, we will continue to assess the changes in the way we live throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Articles in This Series:
Social Pulse: An Opportunity to Create Trust with Consumers
Published April 9, 2020

Social Pulse: The Way We See COVID-19 Relate to CX & the Globe
Published March 26, 2020

Social Pulse: How is the World Reacting to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Published March 20, 2020

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Nicole Martin is currently a consultant at Clarabridge. Prior to Clarabridge, Nicole received her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from The George Washington University. During her time at GW, Nicole wrote her graduate paper on sexuality, sexual behavior, and mental health. In addition, Nicole taught as a Graduate Assistant for the Biostatistics Department at The George Washington University. During her time at Clarabridge, Nicole has worked with healthcare accounts to enrich their analytic capabilities, created customer journey maps for property and casualty insurance companies, and continued to support innovation for clients across various industry verticals.

[1] Sloane, G. (2020, March 23). Twitter says ad revenue ‘significantly’ affected by coronavirus. Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

[2] Rukeyser , M. (1930, September 15). Forbes Classic: These Companies Never Heard Of The Depression! Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

[3]Beech, M. (2020, March 26). COVID-19 Pushes Up Internet Use 70% And Streaming More Than 12%, First Figures Reveal. Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

[4]Coombs, D. S., & Batchelor, B. (2014). We are what we sell: how advertising shapes American life… and always has. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

[5] Martin Guitar. (2020). Retrieved April 1, 2020, from


Social pulse title image
About The Social Pulse Series

Clarabridge has embarked on an independent research project to actively analyze the “emotional pulse” of social media users worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort’s main goal is to assess how people are feeling using Clarabridge’s Natural Language Understanding to glean insights from millions of unstructured data records. We hope to inform the public, provide insights to the scientific community and educate Clarabridge customers. The analyses in this series leverages Twitter data collected beginning March 12th using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “covid19”, and “covid-19” from Twitter. We continue to refine data collection and models as the situation evolves.

Clarabridge COVID-19 Command Center 
REGISTER TODAY:  COVID-19 Command Center Webinar Series

Questions about Coronavirus? Check out the following resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Directory of Local Health Departments