The role of social media in a crisis

Social media can have a positive and a negative effect on organizations. However if a crisis occurs that is related to your organization, social media can be the new Wild West where every participant can take the law in their own hands. For that reason it is necessary to have a strategic social media plan before a crisis hits and try to avoid a crisis by engaging early when problems arise.

During a crisis it is critical to be present, to listen, and where necessary to engage. In the online world a crisis cannot be dealt with in board rooms with closed doors only any more. It is important for leaders and organizations to engage in meaningful discourse and real-time sensemaking no matter if the discussion is lead by real people or from parody accounts.

Most response strategies that are used during a crisis are still quite defensive such as ‘justification’, ‘full apology,’ ‘excuse’, ‘scapegoating,’ and ‘denial’.  Sometimes these defensive strategies are not effective and can be even quite harmful for the organization.

Companies that are engaged only in one-way online communication are perceived to be impersonal and therefore fail to demonstrate commitment and care in times of a crisis, while companies that actively engage with audiences can provide a personal touch in their crisis communication that can turn around negative opinions.

Norbert Bol


Grégoire, Y., Salle, A., & Tripp, T. M. (2015). Managing social media crises with your customers: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Business HorizonsVolume 58, Issue 2, March–April 2015, Pages 173-182

Gruber, D. A., Smerek, R. E., Thomas-Hunt, M. C., & James, E. H. (2015). The real-time power of Twitter: Crisis management and leadership in an age of social media. Business HorizonsVolume 58, Issue 2, March–April 2015, Pages 163-172.

Ki, E. J., & Nekmat, E. (2014). Situational crisis communication and interactivity: Usage and effectiveness of Facebook for crisis management by Fortune 500 companies. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 140-147.

Wan, S., Koh, R., Ong, A., & Pang, A. (2015). Parody social media accounts: Influence and impact on organizations during crisis. Public Relations Review. Press corrected proof.

Photo by David Castillo Dominici. Freedigital Photos
Stock Photo. 3d Imagen Social Media Concept Word Cloud Background Stock Photo

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