Managing misinformation: Combating the coronavirus infodemic

Photo of image social sharing about coronaIn the midst of an evolving and deepening #coronavirus pandemic, everyone is looking for answers.  And increasingly they are turning to the social media channels they know best to find them.  With an overabundance of information filling today’s social media feeds, blogs and search engines, it can be an overwhelming task for brands to make sure they are communicating accurate and trustworthy information.

Indeed, public health organizations like the World Health Organization worry that in fighting the #COVID-19 pandemic, they must also combat an infodemic in which people are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of information and guidance being shared in multiple channels.

In trying to present themselves as helpful and providing support, brands must take active steps to ensure they are communicating credible, useful information in their social media channels. Without thoughtful social media strategies to prevent the spread of bad information, brands might instead be contributing to the chaos and fear defining the current state of the crisis.  This is a time when it is especially critical that brands share only what they have verified and know to be true.

Amanda Sternquist, HGS Digital’s Director of Global Social Care Practice, advised that “It’s always best practice for brands to consider the source of the information they’re sharing to ensure they are not spreading fake news or rumors.”

Tips for tackling an infodemic

Photo of image social sharing about coronaSome social media platforms are recognizing the seriousness of the idea and taking steps to sort, rank and prioritize reliable information.  Pinterest, for example, has already introduced headers and links on their home pages with information about COVID-19. Many social media platforms have started to share information from verifiable sources such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the use of pop-up notifications and banners.

Brands must do their part as well.  Social media managers must understand that what they share online can have unintended negative consequences. Following are some “dos” and “don’ts” to keep in mind when evaluating your social media strategy during the crisis. 


  • Don’t share any updates or developments without validating the source as credible and trustworthy. Public health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are appropriate sources for the most up-to-date information regarding the outbreak.
  • Don’t retweet or share third-party content without also verifying that the information is from a credible and reliable source.  
  • Don’t assume all customer behavior will be the same.  As more people shift to working from home, among other behavioral shifts, elements of all businesses will be impacted.  Endeavor to be aware of these shifts and consider policy changes in line with evolving needs.


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  • Do consider the tone of voice when sharing content in your social media channels. Think about how the information will be received by your audience and customers as well as people outside that group.  Keep in mind there will likely be individuals in your audience who are directly impacted by the pandemic.  Err on the side of caution and communicate with empathy and understanding. 
  • Do focus on how your brand can be useful within the crisis. Work to provide relevant customer support and assistance where possible.  Now is the time to demonstrate your brand values in the way you are supporting your customers through this global crisis.
  • Do keep up to date on the latest coronavirus developments.  Leveraging information from primary public health organizations and local health officials will help inform your social media communication strategy. Doing so will help ensure that your brand messaging aligns with important updates.

In the middle of a massive and growing coronavirus shutdown, social media is more important than ever. With soft quarantines in place, Facebook, Twitter, and other services are taking on added importance as the conduit between family, friends, customers and co-workers. As we become more isolated physically, it will be important for brands to step up their social media communication strategy to share timely and critical information in a way that is valuable and credible. 

Need help with social listening or social response strategies? Learn more about HGS Digital’s EPIC Social Media Care solution or request a consultation.



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