Characterizing COVID-19 Content Posted to TikTok: Public Sentiment and Response During the First Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Adolesc Health. 2021 Aug;69(2):234-241. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.05.010. Epub 2021 Jun 22.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to characterize COVID-19 content posted by users and disseminated via TikTok, a social media platform that has become known largely as an entertainment platform for viral video-sharing. We sought to capture how TikTok videos posted during the initial months of the COVID pandemic changed over time as cases accelerated.

Methods: This study is an observational analysis of sequential TikTok videos with #coronavirus from January to March 2020. Videos were independently coded to assess content (e.g., health relatedness, humor, fear, empathy), misinformation, and public sentiment. To assess engagement, we also codified how often videos were shared relative to their content.

Results: We coded 750 videos and approximately one in four videos tagged with #coronavirus featured health-related content such as featuring objects such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning products. Most videos evoked "humor/parody," whereas 15% and 6% evoked "fear" and "empathy", respectively. TikTok videos posted in March 2020 had the largest number of shares and comments compared with January and February 2020. The proportion of shares and comments for "misleading and incorrect information" featured in videos was lower in March than in January and February 2020. There was no statistical difference between the share and comment counts of videos coded as "incorrect/incomplete" and "correct" over the entire time period.

Conclusions: Analyzing readily available social media platforms, such as TikTok provides real-time insights into public views, frequency and types of misinformation, and norms toward COVID-19. Analyzing TikTok videos has the potential to be used to inform public health messaging and public health mitigation strategies.

Keywords: COVID-19; Health messaging; Infodemic; Social media; TikTok.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media*