Sunday, April 5, 2015

How to react on social media during organizational crisis


Organizations, whether public, private or non-profit, increasingly has engaged in social networking platforms for various reasons such as reaching their audience, promoting participation and transparency, benefitting from collaboration and crowdsourcing, and advertising or improving their products and services. Besides these factors, social media also has become a crucial tool for organizations during crises. As seen in the cases of Bunny Butcher and Qantas Airlines or Commonwealth Edison, depending on responses and reactions of organizations and its audiences, social media can play negative or positive role in crisis management.

Organizational crisis are the situations or events, which develop in an unexpected and unusual way, and may result in loss of legitimacy and prestige of organizations. They can prevent organizations from doing their activities, and even threaten to their existence. Thus, in these crises, interactive communication becomes crucial to build up trust between organization and its audiences. It is widely acknowledged that social media has become one of the most significant medium to perform interactive communication during organizational crisis today. However, still some organizations might perceive social media as a tool for only realizing their aims mentioned above without taking into account the negative and positive outcomes of social media use during crises. Thus, while developing a social media strategy, it is necessary for organizations to consider and prepare how to use social media to respond crisis.

I think what we have learnt from case studies like Bunny Butcher and ComEd is that time, language, content, clarity and accuracy of response are among the important points which organizations should pay attention during crisis. Messages can go viral in social media and increase the negative effects of a crisis. In this sense, timely responses are important. As being in social media means being interactive and providing feedback, non-responsiveness is not a solution for crisis. More than that, social media presence requires constant monitoring of what audience is talking about, and in this process organizations might see and catch alerts or signals of an incoming crisis. Thus, a timely response based on active presence in social media helps organizations to be able to overcome by crisis even before they come.
The language is as crucial as timely response. A defensive or accusing language does not work well during crisis. Also an apology may not be enough to mitigate negative flow of social media posts. Sharing accurate information and accepting the responsibility are more helpful than arguing or defending the legitimacy of the activities of organization. People want organizations to make convincing and sufficient explanation and take the responsibility whatever the outcome is rather than arguing with them. Organizations should grasp the feeling that people express through social media in an unexpected situation. Knowing the mood of people via social media can helps organization to develop an efficient language to deal with an unusual event or situation. Therefore, the style of response on social media can decrease negative effects of a crisis.

Overall, public, private or non-profit organization should be aware that social media use may sometime create reverse effects in any unusual case rather than helping organizational goals, so they should be ready for unexpected situations and events. A responsive, timely, responsible and accurate social media reaction is essential for organizations to mitigate negative effects and eventually overcome the crisis.

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