Social Media: An Unavoidable Factor in Crisis Communication

What’s going on? Check your Facebook, Twitter, scan your blogosphere. Got it!

Social media has become a super popular tool for people to learn news and collect information. Its convenience, timeliness and simplicity enable people to quickly get update news and enjoy free speech. Social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Blog, can make the news go to the vital. News can spread world wide within a very short time. And it allows people to freely comment and discuss on the Internet, thus in turn, attracting more attention on the issue.

It sounds good for the positive messages. But, remember that bad news goes much faster than good ones. If you got a crisis, the social media would be vital. Never overlook the influence of social media on a crisis. The ignorance or poor use of the social media when you react in a crisis can lead you to the dilemma or even failure.

The recent “war” between NBC and its “Tonight Show” host confirms this point. The term of Leno v. Conan v. NBC has been one of the most heated disscussion going around on the Network. However, the results are apparently different.

On the organization side, NBC executives failed to communicate with fans who expressed their overwhelming support for Conan on both Twitter and Facebook, which caused the situation out of control. On the individual side, there are more than 600,000 fans on the “I’m With CoCo Facebook page“, not to mention the number of tweets. While Leno’s show page has 16,617 fans and his personal page was taken over by O’Brien supporters. This apparently shows the significance of social media in the communication of dealing with a crisis.  

The social media communication paradigm is to engage. People freely publish and share news on the Net and others voluntarily spread the news so that the news can reach a wide audience in short time. People like to participate in the various discussions and give their own opinions, which will obtain other people’s recognition or draw more attention to the event.

Therefore, when a crisis breaks, and we want to make our first reaction via the social media, the best way is to be involved and join people’s topics. It’s better for us to express our initial statement on the targeted social media and communicate with the audiences on the discussion. By monitoring what people say and their attitudes, we can try to control the situation and find ways to solve problems. Only by putting ourselves in the social media information dissemination systems can we be completely informed of the situation and effectively handle the crisis. Remember two keys, full engagement and true interaction.

Then what should we pay attention to when dealing with social media in the first reaction of a crisis?

Besides the engagement mentioned above, there are other factors that you should caution. “If you know your audience, locate them online, listen, add value, respond, refrain from spamming and just be yourself, you’ll have far better and more long-lasting positive results,” Aliza Sherman said in her post “10 Golden Rules of Social Media”. A quick response with the information that the public want to know after learning what they think may be the most useful way to make reaction via the social media.

Moreover, we should always be ready to create contents. Because “the best way to mitigate social media crises is to respond at the flashpoint, you must be prepared to make and launch content in a variety of formats and circumstances”, Jay Baer talked in his post “4 Brand-saving recommendations for social media crisis management”.

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2 responses to “Social Media: An Unavoidable Factor in Crisis Communication

  1. Mackenzie Frank

    NBC definitely lost this battle to Facebook, regardless of how they handled it in the real world. Conan commands a fan base generally in the 18-24 age group range. Almost all of them are bound to have a Facebook page and/or Twitter account. Personally I’m an avid fan of Conan from the start, and I wear my “I’m With Coco” with pride around campus. It’s my way of showing disapproval towards NBC, for basically shafting a loyal employee for their bad decisions. It is rather interesting to see the influence of social networks and how fast news travels these days, especially on Twitter. Those updates are instant and companies seem to favor Twitter for its simplicity. I digress, NBC has clearly seen the masses of individuals disrupted by the loss of their favorite Irishman and could have reacted in a way to lessen the tension but instead banned Coco until September. At least TBS knew was was good for them and saved the day.

  2. Victoria, you raised some very interesting points in this post. Social media has practically exploded as a tool to quickly spread the word on the latest news developments to the point that it has become a social phenomenon. Not only does it give those using the websites a deeper insight into the news through the first hand accounts of eyewitnesses, and by providing users with instantaneous updates, but it has also attracted the attention of a younger audience that has been more difficult to reach on such subject matter in the past. Additionally, it has has proven itself to be an excellent tool for PR professionals in providing fast communication in a time of crisis, however, I wonder if it has also created a few problems for them as well. Monitoring the multitude of social media sites for negative output must be time consuming and frustrating for those in charge of reputation management in a time of crisis. I think that the Conan O’Brien vs. Jay Leno reference in your post would be a great example of how that may come into play. As a student in Michelle Ewing’s Principles of PR class, I am fascinated by the role that social media has played in the world of PR and how rapidly it has gained such great importance as a platform for information dissemination in our culture. Great post, great examples, and great research =)

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