How social media can disrupt your crisis management efforts

It’s now easier than ever to create, share and post content on social media. Not only for businesses and organizations, but also for individuals.

With a smartphone in their hand, they can easily take a picture or a video and post it on their different social media accounts in a fraction of a second.

This is one of main reasons why social media should not be overlooked by businesses and organizations in times of crisis.

Hand holding smartphone with social media applications
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

There is no time!

Businesses and organizations used to have time to react to a crisis, to think about different strategies, about how and when to communicate the information to the public…Now? There is no time! Someone out there probably already knows what is going on and can’t wait to be the first person to share it on social media.

In October 2014, during the shooting at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, “…many Twitter users began reporting the location of officers on the ground and sharing images of snipers who had armed the roofs of many nearby buildings.” Nicole Bogart, Global News

This definitely impacted the way the Ottawa Police and RCMP had to deal with the situation at hand. Because of everything that was being shared on Twitter, they not only had to deal with the emergency on the ground, they also had to deal with citizens who were constantly posting and sharing their observations on social media.

By Amika Alert on Twitter

This is just one of many examples that shows how social media can come with its share of challenges during a crisis. This also shows the importance of having someone to monitor and manage your social media accounts when dealing with a crisis. Social media can certainly not be ignored.

It’s not all bad

Even though social media can sometimes interfere with your crisis management efforts, it can also help you communicate directly with the public. The fact that everyone can now take pictures and videos easily can also be a good thing. It actually became an asset for the Ottawa Police and the RCMP during the shooting, because they were able to get pictures and videos that were taken from different locations at different times.

By the Ottawa Police on Twitter

How about you? Have you ever had to deal with a similar situation in the course of your career? Or, do you know any other organizations that had to put out fires on social media while dealing with a crisis?

Twitter post

Learn how #socialmedia can disrupt your #crisismanagement efforts

Facebook post

Wonder how social media can compromise your crisis management efforts? Read my blog to learn more:

COM 0015 Blog Post # 2 – Strong and Weak Organizations

When we think of strong organizations in terms of social media Starbucks, Oreo, WestJet and Tim Horton’s are some of the examples that immediately come to mind.

The strength of an organization’s social media strategy  is especially tested in situations of crisis. The way an organization chooses to manage the problem  differentiates a strong organization from a weak one.

Gini Dietrich details the following great examples of both a strong and weak organization in her book Spin Sucks – Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age.





Strong: Dominos Pizza

The employees of one Domino’s franchise made and uploaded a video to YouTube for their friends to see. The video consisted of the employees spitting and sneezing in the food and then serving it to their customers.  As one would expect, this caused quite a stir on YouTube.

The way Dominos handled the situation differentiated itself as an organization with a strong social media and communications strategy.

Upon finding the video,  Dominos:

  • Said sorry – The CEO made a public apology and uploaded  it to YouTube soon after finding this video.   The franchise whose employees made the video also created a video apology and offered discounts or free pizzas to current customers.
  • Communicated the story – Both the corporate office and the franchise used their social networks to spread the apology and the message.
  •  Addressed the problem and took  timely action – They fired the employees; made sure their apology was heard and offered a solution to ensure that this didn’t happen again.

By doing all of the above, Dominos created  trust because they handled it properly and within days of the YouTube video release.

Weak: Applebee’s Restaurant

A waitress at the St. Louis Applebee’s was fired for posting on Reddit a photo of the receipt where a pastor who had eaten at the restaurant crossed out the automatic 18% tip charged for parties of more than eight and wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18” above her signature.

Rage spread instantaneously across all social media platforms when an image of a back of another receipt where a customer praised the service he received was found on the same franchise location’s Facebook page.  Questions such as “Why wasn’t this person fired?” and “How can this still be on your page?” turned into further criticism and negative comments  around the double standard of Applebee’s company policy.

The real issue was how Applebee’s responded next.

They began to copy and paste the same preapproved message over and over again. They were also accused of deleting negative comments and blocking users.

Applebee’s should have:

  • Thought it through before reacting.
  • Actually addressed the problem and communicated properly.
  •  Apologized instead of getting defensive and backed down when they were wrong and admitted that there was a double standard in their policy.


Source: Both case studies and tips for managing a crisis from Spin Sucks – Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age by Gini Dietrich

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