Crisis Management via Social Media
Transactions of the Institute of Aviation
Introduction Increasing popularity of social media gives businesses a wide spectrum of possibilities to enter into dialog and interaction with consumers, to better understand their needs, to build durable relations with clients and to maintain brand communities. Thanks to social media, content may be transmitted with an unprecedented speed in the so-called viral manner. The consumer has been undergoing change too, expecting now instant answers to all his questions and doubts and more often than
... ever expressing complaints about a company in the media sphere of the internet. All these factors combine to cause organizations to face new challenges, the overcoming of which requires an appropriate preparation. The goal of this paper is to present some examples of organizations dealing with crises with the use of social media. Additionally, the paper describes some organizations which failed to tap into the potentialities offered by social networking services and ignored the power of virtual communities. This approach will allow formulating a code of good practices regarding crisis management through social networks so that organizations could be adequately prepared to respond to crisis in a way that not only helps them to avoid failure but will actually strengthen their image Since the 1982 scandal of cyanide-laced Tylenol much has change, particularly due to the rise of internet economy. Crisis management in this new reality, especially in the sphere of public relations, assumes a new character. With the advent of the Internet and social media, textual, image and video messages spread like wildfire instantly reaching people all over the world. Owing to modern technologies a crisis situation can develop rapidly from one negative piece of information (revealed by anyone) about an organization resulting in its being besieged by an entire community of angry clients. Moreover, in virtual reality it is very difficult to keep information secret or delete potentially damaging information, which poses an even greater challenge for PR specialists. The purpose of this article is to show how organizations can cope with a crisis situation using their presence in social media. In contrast, the paper also describes some organizations which failed to tap into potentialities offered by social networks and ignored the power of virtual communities. This approach will enable formulating good practices regarding crisis management using social media. 124 The research was conducted by the method of active observation, which enabled gaining insights into the ways and rules of the functioning of internet communities from the insider's perspective. Secondary sources were also used for the purposes of the work. The specific character of crisis in social media For the sake of the present paper, a definition of crisis must be adopted. According to Coombs, "crisis is a perception of unforeseeable event which threatens vital expectations of stakeholders and might dramatically affect an organization's performance" 1 .As can bee seen in the further part of the paper, crisis is not always caused by a natural disaster or a human mistake during the production process but may also be triggered by untrue gossip, a misguided advertising campaign offending the feelings of consumers, opinion-forming groups or other organizations, ineffective communication or a service failure. Moreover, it is important to note that the social media crisis may be triggered not only by online but also by offline activities, which easily penetrate the social media sphere. A brand crisis escalating in social media has a specific character due to its viral character -at a click of a button a given content may be shared with one's all profile friends. Then this content may be further replicated by each of its addressees. In this way information can spread faster and on a larger scale than ever before. According to Meerman, "The power and purchasing scale of media are no longer capable of ensuring competitive advantage. What counts now is swift and effective action" 2 . Consequently, a brand no longer has the monopoly to talk about itself. Instead, it is increasingly created by clients. As says Ricardo Guimares, founder of Thymus Branding Company in São Paulo, "Brand value belongs to the market, not to the company. The company is just a tool to create brand value. Understood in this way, brand lives outside rather than inside the company. When I say that managers are not ready for brand management I mean that they are used to managing the closed structure of a company. Brand, however, is an open structure; managers don't know how to manage open structures" 3 . On one hand, the rise of social media presents growth opportunities for companies -a consumer happy with the product -an opinion leader, may more easily become a brand ambassador and affect still larger numbers of users, which facilitates organizing advertising campaigns. On the other hand, this very mechanism poses a threat by turning consumers into channels through which negative comments may be disseminated including complaints from dissatisfied users, reaching potential clients who look for product information. While observing a crisis unfolding in the social media sphere it is possible to identify several groups of users with different roles to play. These are: activists -people disseminating information through blogs, websites such as www.Wykop.pl or internet profiles sharing information with their friends, or at a number of other place frequented by people interested in the matter; critics -people who express their 1 T. W. Coombs, Ongoing crisis communication-planning, managing and responding, 125 dissatisfaction in connection with the matter but do so only once and then give up the topic; attentive observers -people who want to find out the smallest details of the matter, asking questions, following the situation as it unfolds, often personally involved in the issue; brand defenders -or brand ambassadors, loyal clients but also rational people who do not get carried away with emotions believing that everybody has the right to make a mistake and moderating angry emotions; and competitors who try to use the opportunity to persuade people to use their own services. The AdWatch report suggests looking at three phases of crisis 4 : • Onset of crisis -the moment a crisis situation is noticed and communicated by an internet notwork users e.g. on a company's blog or a brand profile or Facebook; information suggesting crisis often spreads rapidly in the Internet; • Crisis mitigation -at this stage discussions in the Internet about the problem are often already quite heated and dynamic. This is why the debates should be joined by the brand representatives as soon as possible. In this phase, a website administrator and other company representatives have an important role to play in undertaking crisis-mitigating activities.