Community, Pret A Manger and Wetherspoon: social media during the coronavirus

8th April 2020: New research has shown that the UK’s social media conversations during the coronavirus pandemic have focused on ‘community’: the number of posts on social platforms using that word has jumped 82% over the past month.

It’s being driven largely by older Brits: nearly half (47%) of posts mentioning community or community spirit have come from Baby Boomers (those aged 55+). References to the spirit of the Blitz have gone up by 70 times year-on-year. There are also three times as many references to #shoplocal as a month ago.

But while talk about community has soared, posts mentioning fashion or travel have both dropped by 47% and posts about sports by 46% over the past 30 days.

The analysis was carried out by creative agency Wunderman Thompson UK, examining tens of millions of posts during March 2020 across sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Mumsnet and others. It also highlighted how certain major UK brands are faring in light of their response to the pandemic:

  • Prior to its closure, Pret A Manger’s offer of free drinks to NHS workers saw its mentions on social media immediately jump by an astonishing 3,574%, and its daily mentions have consistently remained 350% higher ever since. Almost all (99.1%) of those mentions are positive, up from 77% before the crisis
  • By comparison, pub chain Wetherspoon also saw its mentions soar by more than 3,000% following the CEO’s announcement that he didn’t think pubs should close. However, the sentiment in its social mentions went from 61% positive to 80% negative
  • Tesco is the brand most referred to in relation to the coronavirus in the UK, with almost 24,000 mentions over the past month, followed by Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Next come Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

Neil Godber, joint head of planning at Wunderman Thompson says “The analysis shows that we’re beginning to see the green shoots of collectivism and people pulling together in the interests of their communities. There are innumerable reports of children spending their pocket money on loo roll for the elderly, regular cries of ‘I’m going to the shops, can I get you anything?’ from neighbours, and the silent decorum when our eyes meet in the queue for the supermarket. It’s all around us.

“if the national mood is shifting to one where all of us are a little more mindful, doing what we can for each other and wanting to lift everybody’s spirits, then this is also likely to have an impact on how we’re spending our cash. 

“At a time when most of us will be reining in our spending, brands that feel a part of this zeitgeist, and not at odds with it, are likely to attract a higher share of wallet when the chips are down. We’ve already seen how sentiment can sharply change when a brand is perceived to do the right – or the wrong – thing.”


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