When social media are crisis solvers

An organization’s reputation requires years to build; huge efforts to maintain and promote. But all of that may probably collapse at any moment and unfortunately this may happen in a free-fall fashion too. Here comes the role of crisis management to mitigate such a risk in a bid to put things in order. Part and parcel of crisis management is communication.

In this post, I will explain the importance of social media in the overall crisis management communication. Before then, I will first give a short preview of what is implied in crisis communication; second, I will discuss the use of social media, and finally I will present links to some brands succeeded in faring well in crisis.

Crisis communication: Definition

It is a public relations efforts within the organization in response to threats to its reputation. Threats can range from faulted products, fraud, lack of transparency, bad customer service, sexual harassment, labour tension to discrimination , to name but a few. Ignoring concerns/complaints of the public may only worsen the situation and spin it out. That’s why a core component of effective crisis communication drive is prompt response time and continuous handling of messages directed to general public and to main stakeholder. The aim is to contain the crisis as early as possible.


Olga, D. (2016). Crisis Communication [Web log post]. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2B6z8dz

Conventional communication approach to manage a crisis would involve the five communication basics:

  • Communicate with honesty, candour and openness, while acknowledging the risk
  • Collaborate and coordinate with credible sources
  • Meet the needs of media and remain accessible
  • Communicate with compassion, concern and empathy
  • Accept uncertainty and ambiguity


Dougherty, J. (2015, June 08). 6 Social Media “Musts” for Crisis Communication [Web log post]. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from https://cisn.co/2zwBrCa

To manage a crisis, a solid contingency plan is required with the goal of coordinating efforts horizontally and vertically inside the organization. An example of a contingency plan would require, but not limited to the following:

  • Prepare contingency plan in advance and rehearse it
  • Designate spokespersons
  • Act promptly, because the media often build the information in the first hours
  • Involve crisis management consultants and corporate image specialists
  • Give accurate and correct information (trying to manipulate information will seriously backfire if it is discovered, even internally)
  • Consider not only the short-term losses but focus also on the long-term effects


Contingency Planning [Web log review]. (2016, January 6). Retrieved August 14, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2nCNZCN

The following visual gives further insight into the contingency plan:

In terms of communication, it is important to consider the technological advancement and the many channels now are available to convey messages and engage the public. And probably among the best mediums to go for now are social platforms. Reasons are so obvious. For example, they are cheap, measurable and interactive. In term of access, most demographics can use them worldwide. Additionally, their intrinsic features can support hyperlinks, multimedia postings, among others.

Crisis communication: Role of social media

A crisis is time-sensitive and things can escalate quickly. Nowadays organizations are under increasing stress, as bad news are widely shared on social media and can go viral in a matter of minutes. Good news is that an organization can also turn social media into an opportunity to address the situation and open up to the public. So, in line with the communication basics and the contingency plan, social media should be used strategically. Some of the steps that can be taken may include:

Conveying messages

Social media are reliable tools to disseminate timely information to audiences. Many people get their news from social media than conventional mass media. Therefore, social media are useful for sending messages directly to the public, explaining what happened and what kind of measures the organization is taking to address the problem.

Social media are flexible and can accommodate different messages around the same topic at once. An organization in crisis can draft messages tailored to the different groups of people affected by the crisis. As a case in point, Ronn Torossian gave the example of a McDonald’s worker who threatened and verbally attacked a customer and was filmed on camera. The company responded to the victim privately and apologized. It also assured the general public that they were aware of the issue and had terminated the employee’s contract.

Ronn Torossian mentioned that showing empathy humanises the company in the eyes of the public. This will help the company connect with its audience. In the social domain of the new media, it is really important to adopt a tone that friends the audiences. It is pointless, however, to defend the brand from customers, said Torossian, or try to prove the customer is wrong. Rather, the objective should be to engage the audiences into discussions, through which the organization can pitch the best way of how to respond. And, of course, this requires listening and listening!

Social media monitoring

Social media is not only a domain for pushing messages, it is also one for engaging main stakeholders and the public at large. Monitoring what is said about the organization across social media platforms would help in understanding the concerns of the public, the reasons for their opposing attitude and fury. This would offer an opportunity to mark a transition to participation through purposeful content that encourages engagement, which is a good start to respond to a crisis. Generating content by audience creates also a debate about the crisis. Thus, there will be many views: some will be opposing to the organization, some will be supporting the corrective measures by the organization and some may stay objective or neutral. I think this will alleviate tension and stress on the organization, while it continues to engage and resolve the cause of the issue.

In fact, tracking conversations about the organization is healthy. Moreover, it can be a pre-emptive measure in itself. As most crises are the result of events that brew slowly from past related events, social media can help track what is said about the organization over a stretched period of time. If there is a well-implemented content analysis and web-analytics in place, this will help draw the potential risk patterns, if any, and at ahead of time.

Addressing concerns

Crisis management committee or the head of the organization should take action promptly to address and prevent the crisis before it goes out of control. Because we are living in the digital age, an unhappy audience can easily turn to social media to garner more dissatisfied audience against an organization in crisis. That’s why it is crucial to resolve the cause of the problem quickly or at least be open and transparent to those concerned.

Torossian gave the example of how UPS customer service contained the anger of an unhappy customer before it turned into a larger scale crisis. The following video provides further information on how to manage crisis via social media:

That said, let’s now look at some cases of successful crisis management via social media.

Social media: crisis management success stories

Here is a collection of crisis management cases where social media are used:

To conclude, I am wondering if anyone of you is aware of the new Chipotle poisoning cases in the US this month. I tracked the company’s social media but I could not see a social media drive by the company to resolve the ongoing crisis. Why do you think Chipotle is not going digital to address the concern of the public, including via its website?

facebook Social media has the potential to track and engage in real time, outperforming conventional media https://wp.me/p3QRy0-jJE

Twitter Many brands worldwide turn to social media for #crisismanagement https://wp.me/p3QRy0-jJE

Social media: A catalyst for social change


As known, social media platforms are perfect tools for the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Aisling Gough et al, 2017), which allows for reaching larger audience and  accessing a wealth of user data. This represents a good opportunity to monitor the activities of the audience whom the messages have reached, which, in turn, will assist us in having a good understanding of the underlying motives for audience behavior.

The ubiquitous use of social networks worldwide makes them an excellent tool for social marketing. So, if social media are widely used as a communication tool to implicitely persuade potential customers to buy a product or service, then they can also be mediums for promoting ideas and practices. Indeed, their increasing use year on year worldwide amongst various society segments strengthens their position and influence.

In the following, I will show how social media can be used as a social marketing tool in public campaign, like in a health awareness drive. Before that, let me explain in brief what it is meant by social marketing.

Social marketing vs. commercial marketing

Social marketing draws from commercial marketing techniques and selling practices. It integrates some of its approaches, strategies and tactics with the aim of influencing individual behaviors, social processes and norms, policies and institutional practices.

How is it different from conventional commercial marketing? A simple answer is that while commercial marketing aims to persuade prospective customers to acquire goods and services, social marketing is geared towards non-for-profit causes. It sells ideas and strives to alter attitude and behavior. With social marketing, you are seeking “to influence people to do things they are uncomfortable with, don’t want to do or can’t do, very simply.”

How can social media help?

In public health promotion, for example, Gough (2017) mentioned that social media platforms are ideal for health campaigners. The author enumerated many merits associated with their use in health promotion communication:

  • Direct interaction with the public
  • Targeted messages
  • Strategic reach to hard-to-reach individuals and groups
  • Dynamic public health campaigns.

In health campaign, social media can perfectly be integrated with other channels or can stand alone. A Good example is #Movemeber by Movember Foundation, which capitalizes on its social media accounts in Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to convey its messages that promote men’s health and lifestyle.

The merit of having such an ongoing social media campaign is its capacity to generate rich data about the audience, and which type of messages, tone and style that resonates with various publics. These data can be studied using analytics to perform formative research into types of public. This kind of research focuses on classifying levels of publics: For exampl, active, non-active, reluctant, the type of their personalities, where and when best to interact with them. Knowledge of these parameters will determine how we can fine-tune our messages and to inform about better tactics.

rob lowe GIF

By using social media platforms, social marketing efforts (health awareness is an example) can benefit from measurable assessment of their performance. Metrics to measure can be the number of those reached, those led up to altering their attitudes, and possibly also those who have seen their behavior changed. There are two ways we can evaluate the attitude and behavioral change amongst the target audience. First, we can sample content of conversations by the number of active users. Then we can undertake content analysis and examine how their attitude has changed over a period of time. Seond and a step further, a sample of this group can be contacted for a qualitative survey to see if and how their behavior has changed.

A bonus: online campaigning can be monitored from a desktop! Yes this is possible. There are software that can manage various platforms, time message releases, provide archiving, and so on.  Kevan Lee gave a detailed explanation of this tool.

At this level of discussion, I feel I need to go back to what Kevan Lee said about the importance of establishing one’s brand on social media. In the case of Movember Foundation, it has created its own through consistent and recognizable logo, profiles, selection of photos, videos and podcasts uploaded regularly on its social platforms. It also did so by engaging the public in discussions and posting links that lead to its website. All of these helps highlight its mission clearly and enables it to find a niche in a very competitive arena of social issues.

In so doing, it achieved exactly what any other for-profit business would strive to do while undertaking commercial marketing. This is based on the 4Ps principles:

  1. PRODUCT and its presumed benefits
  2. PRICE, or what the audience has to do to obtain the product
  3. PLACE, or how product reaches audience
  4. PROMOTION, or strategy to create and sustain demand for product

With this in mind, let’s think of Movember campaigns on social media and how the 4Ps principles of marketing may apply:

  1. PRODUCT and its presumed benefits (E.g., introducing in-home blood pressure monitoring kits, improved HIV tests)
  1. PRICE, or what the audience has to do to obtain the product (Not only monetary cost, but emotional, psychological and time cost. Remove potential barriers for the target audience to carry out the desired behavior can help. One tactic, for example, would be to upload a video with easy-to-follow instructions for in-home blood pressure monitoring kits, or some improved HIV tests ).
  1. PLACE, or how a product reaches audience (to consider where and when the target public will perform the desired change of behavior. It is recommendable to provide enough information and hyperlinks to where and when they can order these equipment online).
  1. PROMOTION, or strategy to create and sustain demand for product (This will be determined as the campaign goes on. The built-in features in social media will help count number of followers, likes, favourites and mentions. For deeper analysis of patterns and categorizations, analytics can be used to monitor and evaluate the success of the campaign. The aim is to find out its malfunctions and suggest new ways to boost it).

To wrap up this discussion, I mentioned in an earlier blog that social media is here to stay and for a reason. In terms of public campaigns (health and other issues), social networks offer a practical, low-cost model for real-time mode of communication and conversation trending and archiving. They are a forum for negotiating and answering the target audience’s queries and concerns, a key to eventually engage with them better. Last but not least, I beliieve social media are evolving and fit nicely with the marketing 4Ps practice. On another note, however, sometimes I heard that social media may vanish and be overturned. Well, I am not that convinced at this point, aren’t you?


facebook Not only for communication and promotion, social media is here to bring social and behavior change https://bit.ly/2vXD5vt

Twitter Drive behaviour change through #socialmarketing with social media https://bit.ly/2vXD5vt

Political communication in the cocoon of social media metamorphosis

Political communication change prophecies

As early as 2000s, there were expectations the Internet would become one of the main arenas of human existence, offering a marketplace for communication, education, shopping, or self-presentation, including socialization (Bartłomiej Machnik, 2014). Such early prophecies of communication mutations came from the writings of Castells (2003) and reported in (Mansell R., 2003 p. 157):

Since the Internet is becoming an essential medium of communication and organization in all realms of activity, it is obvious that social movements and the political process use and will increasingly use the Internet as well, making it a privileged tool for acting, informing, recruiting, organizing, dominating and counter-dominating.


Social media power and political communication change

Social media power and political communication change

Social media takeover

This is increasingly noticeable in the booming social media landscape, which has led to the fragmentation of the mainstream media. In such an environment, social actors like politicians have increasingly adapting their communication tools to outreach and engage with their audience better.

In fact there is no better media that provide cheaper and immediate two-way mode of communication than social media platforms. In such circumstances, there is no people that are more ready to profit from these remarkable communication venues than politicians. A perfect match, indeed!

No wonder then that the role of social media takes a central stage in the functioning of politics and politicians, explained Machnik (2014), Twitter being favoured mostly by heads of states, international organizations and so on for disseminating information. Exactly why Twitter is loved and appreciated lies in its intrinsic design and functions. Quoted in (Machnik, 2013 p. 65), here is what Paweł Graś, the Poland’s Government’s Press Spokesman in the years 2008-2013 said:

 I value this tool. I value it for the speed and because it is possible to reach thousands of people with one entry. Also for the fact that it is a place where everyone, the great and the ordinary (…) are actually equal and have the same capability to exert influence over others. 

On another level, a growing disinterest in politics and distrust of politicians has brought a great interest in alternative and more efficient ways to interact with citizens. On this ground, mainstream media role is fading, however. Millennials and younger generations turned more and more to smart applications and social media to receive news and socialize.

Twitter, means of public empowerment and manipulation

Thus, in political communication, Twitter offers users the opportunity to directly comment on what their leaders publish. In principle, this discourse empowerment would increase participatory democratic practices in the society by providing rich feedback to political officials, who relied in the past mostly on expensive public consultations and surveys.

In addition to being a platform for discussion and information sharing, what is peculiar about Twitter is that it has become a favourite channel for public official announcements. Unfortunately, as any media platform, it can easily be  used for propaganda too. With this tool, some politicians in Western democracies came around the traditional media to break news to public.

Leaders now can choose, at their discretion, the release time for their announcements without the usual media filtering. Sometimes, leaders can tweet in private without prior consult of their advisors. A good example to illustrate this situation is to consider the way Donald Trump use Twitter.

This  article from the Independent Newspaper quoted George Lakoff @GeorgeLakoff, a Professor Emeritus of University of California, Berkeley, the author of Don’t Think of an Elephant, and an expert on cognitive science and linguistics, analyzed Trump Tweets and came up with a representative taxonomy. Lakoff categorized Trump Tweets into four categories:

  1. Pre-emptive framing (be the first to frame an idea)
  2. Diversion (divert attention from real issues)
  3. Deflection (attack messenger, change direction)
  4. Trial balloon (test public reaction)

Now that politicians can convey their messages with less media overseeing, it is of critical importance that the members of the public be ‘alert’. Indeed, they need to be critical and selective of the vast amount of messages conveyed to them by their elected politicians. I also believe political communication will witness more transformation because social media is here to stay and we, as citizens, need to be vigilant as to the implication of every character, emoji and words.

I posted below the subtitle from the same article and I found it interesting as point of discussion and your input:

Donald Trump one year on: How the Twitter President changed social media and the country’s top office.


 Deželan, T., & Vobic, I. (2016). (R)evolutionizing political communication through social media. Hershey: Information Science Reference.

Graś, P (2013) Sto czterdzieści ważnych znaków [in:] ”Nowe media” 2013, No. 3, p. 65

Machnik, B. (2014). THE PLACE OF TWITTER IN THE PROCESS OF POLITICAL COMMUNICATION. [ebook] Available at: https://bit.ly/2vmwElb [Accessed 31 Jul. 2018].

Mansell, R. (2003). The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society. Research Policy, 32(3), 526-527. doi:10.1016/s0048-7333(02)00012-4

Links to

facebook :  Political communication is getting new shape https://bit.ly/2v47qc1

Twitter : Social media overriding mainstream communication when it comes to #politicalcommunication  https://bit.ly/2v47qc1


Social media: a game-changer in politics

The use of social media has affected the way politicians and voters interact. Increasingly, electoral campaigns, whether legislative or presidential-as in the US politics- have relied on the outreaching power of new media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Social media serves both electors and prospective elected officials. The majority of public have now easy access to their political representatives. And those in office also can reach out easily to their vote base, anticipate their needs and stay accountable to them.

Social media icons

Social media icons

Closer, instant and cheaper!

Murse (2018) listed 10 ways social media has changed US politics. He found that Facebook, Twitter and Youtube had enabled politicians to speak to the public in wider scope, remotely, in two-way communication and cheaply. This means getting around the old traditional paid media, either print, billboard, radio or television.

Veroni (2014) highlighted how Barack Obama had relied on social media to secure victory in two presidential mandates. Moreover, he did so efficiently and with little cost. Probably many of you followed the latest Ontario Provincial. Many of you may also have noticed the way politicians used YouTube videos to promote their agendas. You can find a collection of them in the following video:

Crumbs for politicians

Yet, what make social media dear to politicians is not their cost-effective value or its intrinsic power to generate buzz effects only, but rather the wealth of personal data and information gathered about users. As you know, when you browse the Internet you leave history of your clicks and visits. These are traceable and stored forever in remote data centers. Unrelentingly, cookies are tracking you and the built-in algorithms are used systematically for many analytical functions.

Internet bread-crumbs

Internet bread-crumbs

Veroni (2014) mentioned that Obama used information about social media users to understand the psycho-graphic traits of his potential voters, well-ahead of polls. This allowed his team to customize his campaign messages according to various segments of public. Accordingly, his campaign send tailored (micro-targeted) messages to people.

Micro-targeting and fine-tuning messages

Veroni (2014) stated that even within one household, one may receive a campaign email message that may vary in content from those received by others living in the same house. Murse (2018) explained also that campaigns can use analytics about people who are following them on social media and tailor the message based on selected demographics. For example, campaigners may find one message pertinent to voters under 30 years old will not be as effective with over 60 years old. The same will be true for people with different personalities.

Not only Obama!

The champions of exploiting social media mega data for political gain remained Donald Trump and Leave Britain movement. Many of us must have heard of how their unexpected success came around. They contracted Cambridge Analytica to do psycho-graphic profiling. The following video explains the company’s strategy of using mega-data, which are extracted from social media usage:

Fortunately, this “data-laundry” machine came to an end this year. The company was shut-down and Facebook giant since had been in question in regards to personal data breach after it appeared that personal data of tens of millions in US and elsewhere had been accessed by the analytics company.

That said, we may assume now that social media is more than tools of day-to-day communication. Internet companies grew smarter, building massive algorithms with a great capacity for deep learning @plevy. Politicians would most likely continue manipulating the public by stealing data and using them to exert their power and control. With this in mind, let us ponder on the following questions:

• Are those in office really represent us and reflect our free and true choice?
• To what extent voters are manipulated based on data about their cyber persona?
• How can we use social media smartly, leaving less chance for data predators?
• Are we responsible for giving away our personal data on social media platforms?

Facebook Promotional Post: Bracing for defensive social interaction in social media!

Twitter Promotional Post: Because social media are offered for free, it has always been a question for me!



Veroni, C. (2014). Spin: How politics has the power to turn marketing on its head. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press.