Snapchat Reveals How Coronavirus Is Changing the Way We Live

Trips to the grocery store are up, but that's about it

People looking at maps on their smartphones
Snapchat shares new location and activity data around the coronavirus outbreak. Getty Images
Headshot of Scott Nover

Key Insights:

In just a couple of short weeks, much of American society has shut down. On Tuesday, Snapchat released new research about what its U.S. users are saying and where they’re going during the coronavirus pandemic.

While Snapchat would not provide Adweek with hard numbers, it said that users self-report using the service more. Adweek has previously reported spikes in traffic on Reddit, Tumblr and Pinterest due to the coronavirus outbreak forcing more Americans to work from home and search for a community online.

Snapchat’s findings come from a survey of users, aggregated and anonymized location data, and top trends from search, stickers, public and Our Story post captions. The survey and data were collected last week.

Last week, as compared to the week prior, trips to universities and high schools were down 73% and 86%, respectively, while visits to airports (-22%), restaurants and bars (-29%), malls (-32%), movie theaters (-40%), gyms (-41%) music venues (-59%) are all down. Grocery stores have seen an uptick in visitation by 2%. Since Feb. 23, an analysis from the location technology company Foursquare saw trips to the grocery store increase 19% nationally.

Grocery store visits are up 2%, while other activities are down.

And while foot traffic across a bevy of industries may indicate the effects of the coronavirus on people’s daily lives, so does the 60% of Snapchat’s users who are concerned about the coronavirus—that number is higher among women (66%) and users 35 and older (67%). Only 52% of men said they are worried.

While nearly a quarter of respondents said they felt unaffected by the coronavirus, those numbers should increase as nonessential businesses are closing around the country and states are instituting curfews and shelter-in-place policies.

During the crisis, users are staying busy by using streaming services (+33%), gaming (+25%), online shopping (+12%) and ordering food (+9%).

The app analytics company The Kochava Collective collected data from March 5 to March 15 about how far Americans are traveling from their home on a daily basis, a visual that shows the real-time effects of social distancing and work-from-home policies.

The Kochava Collective

Teenagers hold the rosiest view of the crisis, with most saying they expect disruption to last only four weeks. Forty-four percent of total respondents said they expect disruption to continue for at least a month while only 16% think it will last more than two months. Sixty-seven percent of respondents under 18 said they are more informed about the spread of germs than they were a month ago. Snapchat said some of its top trends “relate to germs and include wipes, hand sanitizer, Lysol, and social distancing.”

Two in 3 Snapchatters under 18 say they are more informed now about the spread of germs than they were a month ago.

Like other platforms, Snapchat has taken a series of steps to promote authoritative information about the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. A spokesperson for the company said that it knows it’s paramount that young people take the outbreak seriously—and Snapchat’s user base skews very young. (For example, Snapchat’s data refers to its “older” users as over 35). 

Snapchat recently expedited the rollout of Here For You, a feature that serves up mental health resources when users search for certain topics including “anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, grief and bullying.” (Similarly, Pinterest recently introduced a feature called compassionate search.) Snapchat has also promoted information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many news organizations on Discover that are making Snapchat-specific content around the pandemic.

Today, Snapchat introduced “Stay At Home” AR Lenses that recommend location-specific activities for users while social distancing.

Unlike most social platforms, Snapchat has no central news feed full of user-generated content, so misinformation has a harder time spreading widely. As Adweek previously reported, Snapchat’s architecture positions it well for the coronavirus outbreak: Instead of focusing efforts on cleaning up the platform, it can focus on promoting reliable information to young people—those who need it most right now.

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.