Wunderman Thompson Launches Social Media & COVID-19 Study

Wunderman Thompson, University of Melbourne, and Pollfish collaborated with the World Health Organisation to conduct and launch Social Media & COVID-19: A Global Study of Digital Crisis Interaction among Gen Z and Millennials.

The international study surveyed 23,500 citizens in 24 countries (aged 18 to 40) between October 24th, 2020, and January 7th, 2021, and investigates where Gen Z and Millennials in pandemic hotspots are getting their COVID-19 information, who they trust as sources, what are their concerns as a result of the pandemic and their awareness of false news.

It also looks at the size of their social media networks, how likely they are to share unverified information, and how they build their own crisis narratives.


“Young people today are globally connected – sharing, co-creating, and interacting with information on digital platforms daily. They have had to navigate the proliferation of misinformation that has accompanied the pandemic – misinformation that causes confusion, damages trust and threatens the public health response to COVID-19. This groundbreaking research provides insights on young people’s concerns during the pandemic and how they are interacting with their digital world to seek COVID-19 information,” said Sarah Hess, Technical Officer, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization.

“These outcomes are key to ensuring WHO’s communication strategies are relevant, responsive, and reach young people, so everyone can have timely access to accurate information in order to make health-protective decisions. WHO would like to acknowledge the fantastic collaboration with Wunderman Thompson, University of Melbourne and Pollfish in conducting this critical research as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Based on initial findings, 6 key insights were developed and an in-depth report will be available at the end of April 2021.


The 6 key insights

Mainstream media is still tops, although Gen Z and Millennials rely on multiple sources for their COVID-19 information. Friends and family ranked lower in terms of sources of information.

Top sources of information include:
43.6% national news media
36.2% search platforms
35.2% international news media
34.2% social media content from traditional media

Science content is seen as shareworthy

What Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to share on social media :
43.9% scientific content
36.7% information relevant to themselves
28.5% information that is concerning.

Awareness of false news is high, but so is apathy

59.1% of respondents were very aware that COVID-19 information on social media and messaging platforms could be false
35.% of respondents ignore content that they find out to be false

Gen Z and Millennials have multiple worries beyond getting sick

Top concerns included:
55.5% risk of friends and family contracting COVID-19
53.8% economy crashing
39.8% employment uncertainty
Crashing economy is the top concern of respondents in half of 24 countries surveyed.

Interest in vaccines is soaring

55.0% are interested in information regarding a COVID-19 vaccine
41.9% state that social media content by the WHO would be their first source of vaccine information

So much information, yet not the full picture

58.3% are overwhelmed by information
52.0% have stopped paying attention to COVID-19 news
59.3% feel the media is not telling them everything
57.1% feel that their government is not giving the full picture on the pandemic

The research was conducted and led by Wunderman Thompson’s APAC Chief Data Officer Thomas Brauch, APAC Intelligence Director Chen May Yee, and the University of Melbourne’s Professor of Digital Communication and Globalization (Faculty of Arts), Ingrid Volkmer.

“We continue to learn more about the prevalence and negative impact of misinformation on communities and citizens to effectively address global challenges like COVID,” said Thomas Brauch, Chief Data Officer APAC, Wunderman Thompson.

“This research, covering 24 countries, adds to our understanding of how average people think about misinformation, ways they try to avoid or counter the effect and provides guidance on addressing and overcoming a growing sense of skepticism people have in finding truthful and reliable sources.”

The 24-country survey was conducted by Pollfish.

“Pollfish is extremely proud to be part of this partnership that is researching such a key dimension of the pandemic that has gripped our world,” said John Papadakis, CEO, Pollfish.

“Our organic research methodology and easy-to-use platform meant that the partnership was able to get global data at unparalleled speed and quality. Our partners were able to easily and quickly reach Gen Z and millennials around the world on Pollfish, even though these audiences can be challenging to connect with, because of our unique methodology and platform.”

More information about the key insights and an interactive dashboard is available on the Social Media & COVID-19 microsite.

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