During the coronavirus, people have hoarded toilet paper. The image is of a gloved hand holding a roll of toilet paper and several stacks are blurred in the background.
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COVID-19 and Toilet Paper: The Conversation according to our Data

You might have noticed a surge in memes, viral videos and articles about a particular household item lately. We're calling it the great toilet paper panic of 2020; a subset of the #Coronapocalypse content that's flooded our social media timelines lately.  What is it about toilet paper that has captured national (and even international) attention? Why not medicine? Or canned goods? And what does that have to do with you and your business?


In this difficult time, many businesses are running lean, radically changing or closing in response to the volatile state of the market. Paying attention to social media trends can help you make smart decisions and anticipate upcoming changes so you’re prepared -- not 100 rolls of toilet paper prepared -- but effectively prepared for what comes next. 

 

A line graph from Nuvi's software shows the patterns and growth in the conversation trend around coronavirus and toilet paper. There are four spikes in the conversation on social media. One on March 7th, March 12th, March 13th, and March 20th. The tweet that caused the first spike reads "panic buying is a symptom of a dysfunctional society diseased with individualism to those with litres of soap at home do you realize that to slow the transmission of COVID-19 you need other people to be cleaning their hands too? A fortress of toilet paper will not protect you." The next tweet reads "in honor of my favorite Asgardian three things thor'sday 1)the world is not coming to an end 2)the sky is not falling 3)toilet paper does not cure the coronavirus." The third tweet reads: "since the COVD-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, photos of shoppers hoarding food, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper have gone viral online." The last tweet reads: "if the coronavirus has taught us anything it is the lengths people will go to when desperate. Next time you want to judge boat people, refugees, migrants fleeing war torn land- remember you fought over toilet paper." The bottom summary text of the image reads: tracking the engagement with tweets containing coronavirus and toilet paper over time."
A visualization of the trend, including spikes representing viral tweets.


Taking a closer look at the toilet paper fiasco, what led to its rise to one of the largest trending topics in the middle of a global emergency? Here’s what we found:

1) It’s relatable. Social media is nothing if not the apex of relatable content.

A tweet that reads: "I have one roll of toilet paper left in my house and ive made it last a week. believe in urself." The tweet has 337 comments, 2.4k retweets, and 69.2k likes


We’re all going through this uncertain time together and we all need toilet paper. Even influencers have made posts about it to remind their fans that celebrities face some of the same struggles we do! 


Nuvi's influencer list of the top 10 most mentioned influencers in the past month around coronavirus and toilet paper. this list is in order of top to lowest: Julia Stay Home Simmons 77,646, the caffeinated therapist 59,525, Megan 51,831, WhitePeopleHumor 48,034, courtney 27,156, Sahlt 12,222, rex chapman 12,136, Kellywise the clown 8,548, anne theriault 8,123, garbage ape 7,857
Social listening can help identify key influencers in your industry, the trends they should weigh in on and when. These are the top influencers during the last month on Coronavirus and toilet paper according to our monitor.


Influencers are an essential part of the social media ecosystem. Why? They can help bridge the gap between companies and customers by making companies more relatable, more human to their audience. They seem to magically make anything relatable. I mean, if they can make toilet paper engaging, what else can they do?


It’s crucial that they keep their audiences satisfied with the type of relatable, entertaining or informative content that they built their following on. It’s just as crucial for your brand.

2) It led to some pretty hilarious jokes.

tweet reads: already ate all the toilet paper I stocked up on :/. The tweet has 1.k retweets and 8.4k likes


Jokes serve the social functions of bringing people together and easing stress in difficult times. They provide people with a much needed break from the complicated emotions they experience during a disaster. Whether it’s an individual or company reaching out on social media, or a joke by The Daily Show -- laughing together helps us relieve tension. 


As we see below, a lighthearted take on a Coronavirus related trend or observation can lead to high levels of spread and engagement


tweet reads: "NBA Player: *get access to a coronavirus test* senator: *uses inside info to sell stocks before the market crashes* NORMAL PERSON: *trades family heirloom for black market toilet paper*. The tweet has 249 comments, 9.9k retweets, and 43.3K likes


We never outgrow potty humor – it’s just human nature


tweet reads: if you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for 14 days of quarantine you probably should be seeing a doctor for something other than the coronavirus. The tweet has 10 comments, 245 retweets, and 527 likes. The image is of six 48 packs of Charmin toilet paper in two stacks next to each other


There’s nothing that brings Americans together quite like sports - and with almost all games on hiatus right now, the jokes and memes are more important than ever as people take solace in their sense of community with fellow sports fans. 

tweet reads: "Breaking: Bill O'Brien and the Texans have traded J.J. Watt to the Patriots in return for 16 rolls of toilet paper. 298 comments, 3.4k retweets, and 19.9k likes.


Users took to social media to blow off some steam and have a little fun with each other-- from new dances on Tik Tok to predictive text games on Twitter and Facebook. 


tweet reads: "Type: I'm out of toilet paper so I wiped with" and let the predictive text finish it. The tweet has 87 comments, 3 retweets, and 89 likes.


3) Smart businesses are already using the toilet paper social media trend to gain publicity.


Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles offered a kit with the restaurant’s food, toilet paper and eggs. This measure helps them cut down on supplies like toilet paper that they may not need as restaurants shift to carry-out only, and provides their customers with an essential and high-demand item. It also serves the community well by saving people a trip to the chaotic grocery stores where it may be hard to practice the social distancing recommended by the CDC. The story was picked up by CNN and received thousands of likes and a massive reach. 


tweet reads: this LA taco spot is selling Emergency Taco Kits that not only include fixings to eat at home, but also four rolls or toilet paper and 30 eggs to alleviate customer' shopping needs amid coronavirus concerns. the image is of the offering: two large rectangle containers of beef and chicken, 30 eggs, bowls of green onions, jalapeños, avacaco dip, and salsa. There is also a bag of tortillas, two plastic cups of cheese and broth, and four rolls of toilet paper. This tweet has 58 comments, 285 retweets, and 1.5k likes


As the market shifts, so do your customers’ needs. Do you know what they need? Do you have the market research tools you need to figure it out? 


tweet reads: a bar in my neighborhood is delivering entire liters of their premixed margaritas for $25 and you get a complimentary roll of toilet paper with your purchase and it's really starting to feel like there are no rules anymore. This tweet has 1.8k comments, 52.4K retweets, and 485.8K likes


4) Experts took to the media to weigh in


Even Economists are looking into this phenomenon: it turns out, calls for social distancing prompted people to buy a “buffer stock.” Economists predicted the toilet paper shortage will end as these buffer stockers would go back to buying just enough to match their usage after ensuring they had a buffer. Additionally, they point out, most people have space limitations and wouldn’t be able to continue buying toilet paper at this rate.

 

Tweet reads: this economist has a theory about why people are hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus crisis — and why it'll only be temporary. The image is a shopper with a full cart and the two biggest packages on top are toilet paper. This tweet has 2 retweets and 13 likes.


The toilet paper brands also joined the conversation. They say: don’t worry - the shortage will be over soon and someday this will just be a distant memory!


tweet reads: shelves at local grocery stores may be empty, but toilet paper manufacturer are adamant: We've got this. The image is of three Charmin toilet paper  24 packs standing upright with three six packs on top of them, laying so the top is facing the camera. This tweet has 6 comments, 34 shares, and 81 likes


So what’s our takeaway from this research?


Listening to the conversation on Twitter answers some important questions about the toilet paper crisis for us - What’s going on? What caused this? Who is impacted? How will this affect me? How long will it last? How are people reacting?


More importantly, how can your company utilize the insights to connect with your customers during the COVID crisis?


As people spend more time at home, social media becomes the center of all interactions. Now, more than ever, social customer experience is absolutely crucial. We can’t be sure how long the impacts of this pandemic will last, but we do know customers’ interaction with your brand on social media during this time will strongly impact their perception of you well into the future. 

 

We all have our own feeds full of memes, articles, and information. For your business to make the best strategic decisions moving forward, monitoring the conversations happening on social platforms holistically is essential. Our Listening software considers emotions involved with each mention which provides valuable insight into consumer behavior. 


Nuvi’s analytics tools allow you to pinpoint trends not only accurately but efficiently. Create a strong customer experience strategy that can carry you through this crisis with these insights.


Let us gather the details, so you can draw the conclusions and act right away.


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