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It will be no surprise that when COVID-19 first became ‘big news’ in the UK, we turned to what we can control...our store cupboards. Necessities like toilet paper, hand wash and pasta became scarce as people feared for the worst, and those working in supermarkets were celebrated as key workers.

The experience of grocery shopping in supermarkets changed drastically in March 2020. No longer could people stroll leisurely down the aisles: some people had to wait up to an hour to be allowed into the shop, while there were limits on purchases. Even those who decided to steer clear of the physical shops and swerved to online faced issues, with delivery slots in demand.

With the in-store and online experience no longer the norm, social media became a key channel for customers keen to ask questions, clarify issues and complain. This raised the question: what impact did COVID-19 have on supermarkets’ social media?

What were the key trends on supermarkets’ social media during COVID?

Having carried out intensive investigation into the social media of eleven major supermarket brands in the UK from January to July (Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Farmfoods, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose), we’ve identified four major trends.


Trend 1 | Negativity dominated as conversation doubled

There was a 100% increase in conversations about supermarkets on social media in March, as people discussed finding products, booking delivery slots and more. With delivery slots hard to come by, conversation on social media became negative, with a 156% increase in negative comments.


Trend 2 | Boom in followers during the peak of lockdown

As people began to seek instant information from supermarkets, including on opening times and delivery slots, they turned to social media. As such, from March supermarkets began to see an increase in followers - with over 290,000 new followers in March alone.


Trend 3 | Posting narratives changed over the months

There have been three key waves of narrative from supermarkets on social over the past six months: a push on news and information, a focus on helping our heroes (celebrating the NHS and key workers) and finally a drive to share recipes and cooking ideas as people became used to the ‘new normal’.


Trend 4 | Charity work and deals were the focus of ads

While food deals were a focus for ads, there was also a strong push in social media adverts celebrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) including charity tie-ups.

For more information about each of these trends, as well as key insights, view and download our report.

What can retailers learn from this ahead of a second lockdown?

From our research, there are some key learnings that retailers – and supermarkets in particular – can take away when it comes to planning their social media for the second lockdown:

  • Be clear about opening hours, availability and any purchase restrictions – lack of clarity on social, particularly at a time when consumers are seeking reassurance that their needs can be met, led to negativity. While constant changes may make things fluid, try to keep customers updated across Twitter and Facebook. 

  • If opening hours have changed, or there are limits to products which can be bought (e.g. only two bags of flour per customer) consider pinning a post to the top of your page with this information. If things differ branch to branch, link to a webpage with localised details.

  • Community management is key. Make sure your social media customer service team knows what is going on and try to respond to customer queries where possible. This will help reduce negativity in social conversation.

  • Plan for the coming ‘waves’ of content. During the first lockdown, we didn’t know what would happen next. Now, we have more knowledge, so can create a plan based on the trends we saw last time - for example, we know that there will be a rise in at home baking and home gym equipment - especially due to winter weather.


This report is based on analysis of 11 supermarkets (Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Farmfoods, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose), from 1st January until 31st July 2020.  This includes using a variety of social media tools, as well as a trademarked Hydrogenetics formula, to calculate follower numbers, posts, engagement, brand mentions and sentiment over the period analysed across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Hydrogen’s trademarked Hydrogenetics formula analyses over 40 different elements that build up an overall picture of a brand’s social media presence compared to competitors. These elements are associated with four different pillars (platform, output, engagements and conversation), to receive an overall score out of 100. By measuring multiple factors for each of the four pillars, this provides a true oversight on how a brand is performing in the social sphere.

To discover more about Hydrogenetics visit:

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