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Crisis Management

 “Crisis management” refers to the art, technique or practice of averting or dealing with crisis situations that threaten to harm an organization, its stakeholders, or the general public. It is also the attempt to limit the damage of a known or an unforeseen problem. There are three elements that are common to most definitions of a crisis: (a) a threat to the organization, (b) the element of surprise, and (c) a short decision time.

In his paper A Typology of Social Media Crisis, Ashwin Malshe argues that one of the key benefits of using social media marketing is the two-way interaction it gives to both businesses and their consumers.“Consumers like it because they can engage in conversations with the brands they buyMalshe), while businesses recognize the value of keeping their customers interested and informed. However, this can be a double-edged sword:a customer can as easily complain about his bad experiences as he can trumpet a good one (Malshe). 

Malshe argues that:

The increased efficiency of communication and intimacy with consumers come at the cost of higher riskiness of the business. Users can share an article, video, or photograph with their social network at the click of a button, thus spreading a firm’s content “virally,” generating wide visibility instantaneously. In exactly the same way, users can harm firms by sharing bad experiences, rumors, or events that were pure accidents.

Malshe adds that because there is little accountability on the Internet, firms are put in a tight spot. The fact that there are no moderators on social networks monitoring the flow of information over this super highway only exacerbates the problem (Malshe). Because of this, social media crisis can flare up quickly and spread at the speed of light (Malshe), turning the very viral nature of the Internet—a nature that normally makes it so appealing to marketers—into a very serious threat against them.

“There are several ways in which one can group social media crises,” argues Malshe, adding that “An intuitive criterion for categorization can be the type of social medium.” Whether the crisis erupted on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube will call for different strategies to be used to address and contain the crisis (Malshe). For example, since human beings are, first-and-foremost visual creatures, a video on YouTube will probably elicit more negative reaction than a Tweet on Twitter (Malshe). However, Malshe argues that crises should not be viewed in a vacuum as they can quickly spread from one network to another (Malshe). Something initiated on Facebook can easily be shared with others on Google+, Twitter or the hundreds of other social networks available today (Malshe). As Malshe notes, since a YouTube video may generate more attention on Facebook than on YouTube, it is not that important to identify which social media site the crisis first blew up on (Malshe). What is important is countering the crisis on as many social media sites as it is affecting (Malshe).

Using the comprehensive typology of crises model proposed by Gundel (2005) as a starting point, Malshe proposes the typology of social media crises. Gundel (2005) categorizes crises into “four types based on their predictability (high vs. low) and controllability (high vs. low)” (Malshe). Grundel (2005) “puts an emphasis on predictability because, in general, organizations can design measures to proactively eliminate a crisis or at least prepare the response to a crisis based on its predictability” (Malshe). However, for crises flaring up across multiple social media networking sites, the consideration of predictability becomes less important (Malshe). Malshe argues that, “due to its open and viral nature, social media make crises almost unpredictable. Therefore, although organizations can put in place measures to avoid crisis-like situations, the predictability of the time, place, or the nature of crisis [sic] is almost zero” (Malshe). The global nature of social media also makes it exceptionally difficult to predict these types of crises, with language, geographical and cultural differences exacerbating not only the complexity of the problems, but also the responses necessary to deal with them (Malshe).