VIRAL: insights into flu on social media and the importance of marshmallows



We’ve all been there: aching muscles, throbbing head, sore throat. Coming down with the flu is no fun, and everyone has their own way of dealing with the symptoms. Hot tea, Vicks rub, ginger, garlic soup, Lemsip and marshmallows are all listed as popular go-to remedies.

Wait – marshmallows? Yep. Pulsar has just released Viral, a study on flu spreads on social media, and one of the many surprising outcomes is that people like to grab a bag of spongey sweets when flu symptoms strike.

So what else did we look at for this study? We focused our research around key topics including seasonality, celebrity impact, favourite over-the-counter remedies (Lemsip anyone?), what people actually think about the dreaded flu jab, and how we can use data to improve health care for everyone.


Flu conversations social data


Understanding what people respond to when looking at ‘flu’ as a topic can be incredibly useful for a range of organisations – and purposes. For example, it’s proven that virus outbreaks can successfully be predicted with help of social media, which is useful for communications campaigns. Plus, knowing what type of products people tend to buy when they are experiencing flu-like symptoms can help pharmaceutical companies develop products better suited to people’s needs. Next to that, brands can find the best people – and time – to tie in with social influencers to reach the biggest possible audience.

Viral, our new study, is free to download from our website here.

Here’s a sneak peek into the report:


VIRAL Magazine: Social media insights for flu healthcare


Looking at conversations on social media around flu for a longer period of time, you would expect there to be a spike in activity during flu season, so autumn and winter 2015-2016. However, research findings show that talk about flu is pretty much consistent all year round. What mainly causes massive spikes is celebrities lamenting their flu symptoms – a sympathy surge can easily be identified with fans sharing and commenting on idols that have fallen ill.

Viral social insights flu

For more insights download your copy of Viral here.

Where next?

Introducing Twitch Data on Pulsar

Little Dark Age: Mapping the Evolution of a Meme

Introducing NewsGuard on Pulsar: a new way to understand misinformation