Accessible Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter August 10, 2020

COVID-19 on TikTok: harnessing an emerging social media platform to convey important public health messages

Corey H. Basch, Grace C. Hillyer and Christie Jaime



TikTok is a popular social media platform, especially among those who are 13–24 years of age. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to describe the content of COVID-19 material on TikTok.


A total of 100 videos posted under the hashtag #Coronavirus were included in this study along with all (n=17) posts uploaded by the World Health Organization (WHO).


Overall, these videos were viewed 1,194,081,700 times. The most commonly cited topics included anxiety (14.5%) with more than 190.6 million views and quarantine (10.3%) with 106.6 million views. Fewer than 10% of videos mentioned how the virus is transmitted, symptoms, and prevention. WHO videos more often focused on viral transmission and symptoms but covered these topics in fewer than 10% of the videos.


Although research suggests that cases of COVID-19 may be less severe in those under 18 years of age, social distancing remains paramount due to the possibility of transmission even in those with minimal or no symptoms. For young adults in particular, the WHO suggests staying connected through social media and making every attempt to stay positive. TikTok has the potential, not only to convey important health information, but to address these aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Corresponding author: Prof. Corey H. Basch, Department of Public Health, William Paterson University, University Hall, Wayne, NJ07470, USA, Phone: (973) 720 2603, E-mail:

  1. Research funding: None declared.

  2. Author contributions: CHB and CJ conceptualized the study. CJ collected the data. GCH analyzed the data. All authors contributed to writing and editing the manuscript.

  3. Competing interests: Authors state no conflict of interest.


1. World Health Organization (WHO). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19); situation report – 104; 2020. Available from: [cited 2020 May 8]. Search in Google Scholar

2. Zarocostas, J. How to fight an infodemic. Lancet 2020;395:676. Search in Google Scholar

3. Sehl, K. Everything brands need to know about TikTok In: Hootsuite, editor; 2020. Available from: Search in Google Scholar

4. Yurieff, K. Doctors turn to Twitter and TikTok to share coronavirus news. New York: CNN Business; 2020. Search in Google Scholar

5. Brown, D. What’s true about coronavirus? World Health Organization joins TikTok to share ‘reliable’ information. USA: USA Today; 2020. Search in Google Scholar

6. Basch, CH, Hillyer, GC, Meleo-Erwin, ZC, Jaime, C, Mohlman, J, Basch, CE. Preventive behaviors conveyed on YouTube to mitigate transmission of COVID-19: cross-sectional study. JMIR Public Health Surveill 2020;6:e18807. Search in Google Scholar

7. Basch, CE, Basch, CH, Hillyer, GC, Jaime, C. The role of YouTube and the entertainment industry in saving lives by educating and mobilizing the public to adopt behaviors for community mitigation of COVID-19: successive sampling design study. JMIR Public Health Surveill 2020;6:e19145. Search in Google Scholar

8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): how to protect yourself & others; 2020. Available from: [cited 2020 April 5]. Search in Google Scholar

9. Bialek, S, Gierke, R, Hughes, M, McNamara, LA, Pilishvili, T, Skoff, T. Coronavirus disease 2019 in children – United States, February 12-April 2, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:422–6. Search in Google Scholar

10. World Health Organization (WHO). COVID-19: resources for adolescents and youth; 2020. Available from: [cited 2020 May 8]. Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2020-05-11
Accepted: 2020-06-21
Published Online: 2020-08-10

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston