Ever since the popularization of social media platforms, crisis management and public relations have been forced to adapt to the three-headed giant of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The days of drafting a single, carefully-worded press release for the public to read in print are long gone. Instead, there’s now an unending stream of information and commentary at our fingertips every hour of every day.
This conflagration of social media adds a new and unpredictable element to the world of crisis communications. Currently, more false information and “fake news” can be found on the internet than actual fact—and this is especially true across social media platforms.
The Retweet Culture and “Fake News"
The total number of social media users is predicted to increase to 3.02 billion, over a third of the Earth’s population, by 2021. Even now, 81% of Americans have at least one social media platform, with the national average platform per user nearing seven.
In regards to Twitter and retweet culture, 81% of the population users Twitter at least once a day, creating over 72 million retweets every day.
This concern for “fake news” paired with the trusting mindset of social media users has created a retweet culture, in which a fabricated article can be canonized in seconds.
In crisis management situations, retweet culture can turn a minor controllable incident into a public relations nightmare.
In 2015, after an outbreak of E. Coli, Chipotle saw an immediate 16 percent drop in profits, losing $18 billion in value, because of the widespread negative reaction of the public on social media.
Clearly, perceived fact can corrupt online public opinion as internet users struggle to sift through an endless sea of information. This over-abundance of social media, online expression of opinion and false reporting has made it difficult to contain the previously containable, forcing crisis communicators to find a solution to manage the heavily skewed perceptions of the public.
The Proposed Solution
The most straightforward solution is to use the hindrance of social media as a tool with which to combat its own harmful effects. In other words, social media can be extremely destructive, but it can also be turned into a beneficial good.
Consumers expect much more out of businesses during crisis situations. No longer can a company ignore a crisis until it goes away or release blanket statements to satisfy the desires of the public. People want interactive and open responsiveness in real-time. This expectation forces a response that has had a profound impact on crisis management strategy.
One of the many advantages of social media is that it allows businesses and officials to eliminate the previously common lull in information. There is no more waiting for the evening news to air a press release. Rather, there is constant, ever-present opportunity to respond to the crisis. This allows organizations to have greater insight into the mindsets and responses of the public.
Additionally, social media serves as a real-time testing ground for crisis strategy. Rather than being purely hit or miss, it allows companies to try and retry different methods for responding to a crisis. If the public interacts poorly with the response, then the crisis is not lost.
Social media provides time and opportunity to correct mistakes and form a better resolution.
With the decline of print journalism and the rise of social media, crisis communication can transition from simply using words to employing video and photographs. Video clips and photographs have a much greater impact on the public than mere words. Social media can distribute these powerful emotional influencers at a much faster rate, often bypassing traditional media.
The final and perhaps most prevalent benefit of social media is crisis communications is that it allows organizations to tell their own story. When faced with a crisis, businesses and individuals have a direct line to the public, apart from mass media, that allows them to make and distribute their own public statements. This gives organizations a chance to deliver exactly what they want to say at the precise moment they want to say it.
The Impact Group is an expert in crisis communications, able to help you navigate any challenges that your organization faces. Call us today to discuss how we can assist you in communicating the right message, at the right time.