Facebook has released new data through its Data for Good project – in partnership with humanitarian relief organization Direct Relief – that reinforces how organizations and businesses adapted to use the social media platform as the economy spiraled during the global coronavirus pandemic.
A new interactive dashboard shows data by date, down to the county level across the United States. From retail’s peak during the fall and holidays, to the slow return for restaurants, local events and travel-related pages, the data for Mississippi tell a story about how different sectors adapted.
Here are key trends for Mississippi as it compares to the rest of America:
- Local events took a hit in 2020 while the community practiced social distancing and postponed public gatherings. The usage of social media for these local events hit its low on Aug. 18, 2020, at 41.23%. Since then, it has consistently trended upwards toward the baseline with events on July 4, 2021 and is now almost level with the pre-pandemic baseline.
- In the Jackson area, professional services have trended upwards in usage since the Spring of 2020, most likely due to businesses relying on social media to communicate with customers. This trend reversed on Dec. 4, 2020, when it dropped from 245.96% to 36.17% on Dec. 18, 2020, and has continued that downtrend ever since. This could be due to almost all businesses being reopened and in-person or face-to-face communication resuming.
In many sectors, Mississippi mirrors national trends, with peaks early in the pandemic as businesses posted updates for their customers, followed by less activity and fewer posts while people stayed close to home. The optimism of the spring is reflected in an increase in posts for retails, local events, and restaurants, although most have not returned to pre-pandemic patterns for posts.
“We started this work in 2019 to try to better understand whether or not we could forecast things like flu and measles. Little did we know that a global pandemic was heading our way,” said Laura McGorman, a Facebook spokesperson. “We have been incredible busy with tools for COVID-19 response. Facebook, because of our global reach, can really attack this from a scale perspective. When the pandemic hit, we began using this as a daily data set to see how the rate of online activity of small businesses can be an indicator of their economic recovery.”
This dashboard comes following a study which showed that Facebook posting activity can reflect whether businesses are operating and how their digital behavior is influenced by outside events.
Perhaps no other sector has been impacted by the pandemic like corporate events – which was forced to innovate with virtual events during the crisis. Hattiesburg-based Emerge Events owner Jennifer Clark has seen the transition firsthand, and how the industry has transformed to compete in today’s world.
While in-person events shut down in 2020, they are on the rebound in 2021, a trend that will continue as we emerge from the pandemic, Clark said. Innovation in a coronavirus era will most certainly build on video technologies and virtual gatherings that has brought us closer together.
“Many of our businesses have done a good job of going virtual. During the pandemic, I completely pivoted to virtual conferences, and it’s the reason I survived,” Clark said. “I attracted business to do events all over the world. As we continue to emerge out of the pandemic and move back to in-person events, virtual is here to stay. It allows people to attend, even when they can’t travel – and it leverages all of the great technologies at our fingertips, like social media advertising, and Facebook tools like Messenger and Live to communicate with key audiences.”
Twitter Partners w/AP, Reuters to Address Misinformation
Twitter announced today it’s partnering with news organizations The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters to expand its efforts focused on highlighting reliable news and information on its platform. Through the new agreements, Twitter’s Curation team will be able to leverage the expertise of the partnered organizations to add more context to the news and trends that circulate across Twitter, as well as aid with the company’s use of public service announcements during high-visibility events, misinformation labels and more.
Currently, the Curation team works to add additional information to content that includes Top Trends and other news on Twitter’s Explore tab. The team is also involved with how certain search results are ranked, to ensure that content from high-quality searches appear at the top of search results when certain keywords or hashtags are searched for on Twitter.
The team may also be involved with the prompts that appear in the Explore tab on the Home Timeline related to major events, like public health emergencies (such as the pandemic) or other events, like elections. And they may help with the misinformation labels that appear on tweets that are allowed to remain visible on Twitter but are labeled with informative context from authoritative sources. These include tweets that violate Twitter’s rules around manipulated media, election integrity, or COVID-19.
However, the team operates separately from Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, which determines when tweets violate Twitter’s guidelines and punitive action, like removal or bans, must be taken, Twitter confirmed that neither the AP nor Reuters will be involved in those sorts of enforcement decisions.
By working more directly with AP and Reuters, who also partner with Facebook on fact checks, Twitter says it will be able to increase the speed and scale to which it’s able to add this additional information to tweets and elsewhere on its platform. That means in times where news is breaking and when facts are in dispute as a story emerges, Twitter’s own team will be able to quickly turn to these more trusted sources to improve how contextual information is added to the conversations taking place on Twitter.
This could also be useful in stopping misinformation from going viral, instead of waiting until after the fact to correct misleading tweets.
Twitter’s new crowdsourced fact-checking system Birdwatch will also leverage feedback from AP and Reuters to help determine the quality of information shared by Birdwatch participants.
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