Social media can be a 'double-edged sword' during a crisis. How can brands better leverage it?

by Samuel Pordengerg May 29, 2023 News
Social media can be a

Companies and brands can use social media to communicate during crises. Social media can help amplify company scandals and support accusations.

The German automaker's shares lost US$2.3 billion in market value on the same day as the incident happened. Two days later, the company had to make another apology.

Will the apology and firing of cabin crew members help the PR storm?

The details of the alleged incident during the flight from Chengdu to Hong Kong went viral on Xiaohongshu. The Xiaohongshu user made several accusations against some cabin crew members on the flight, including some members teasing passengers by saying in English, "If you cannot speak 'blanket', you cannot have it."

Three cabin crew members have been fired by Cathay after an internal investigation concluded. Over 30,000 mentions of the incident have been made around the world as of 23 May, with over half of them negative, according to CARMA. Many users on Weibo complained about the airline's decision to only publish the statement on Weibo.

How does social media affect these incidents?

The social media giant looks like the wind in a forest fire. It expands its reach. Ken Cheung said that most news is broken on social media before it gets mass media adoption. He said that.

Once some news had been published, further viral engagement and more news channels would be published. So, it will lead to a big crisis finally.

As much as marketers rely on social media to amplify and raise awareness for a brand to reach its target audiences and beyond, social media is the same platform that can tear down and ruin a brand's reputation.

Oslen said that the word-of-mouth-marketing speaks for itself.

The more people share and talk about a piece of news, the further it catapults across the internet, gaining exposure to media outlets and even communities beyond where it originated. 

James Chua said that social media is the main source of news for most people. Everyone is now a citizen journalist because of the great sharing features on the social media platforms.

We Are Social agreed with Chua that with social media being the primary source of news, "social activism" and its close relative "cancel culture", the online trend of calling out people or brands for perceived social indiscretions or offensive behaviours, being a part.

Jeffrey Hau and Kelvin Wong, CEO and senior account director of social media agency, said that social media provides ease of shareability, but it's the platforms' algorithms that play a crucial role in prioritising content with more engagements.

The reach is amplified as user generated comments provide the not-ending fuel, as the platform algorithm aggravates the fire of polarised stances, which soon extended beyond the matter itself but a debate of politics and culture.

A PR professional with over 25 years of experience who wanted to remain anonymous said that social media shouldn't be seen as a double-edged sword.

While it indeed can create a perception of wrongdoing within an organisation, but it actually gives a company the ability to get a better sense of what people are saying about it. 

The PR professional said that the complaints can be useful in helping them formulate the actions they need to take to recover the brand.

How can social media be used to deal with crises?

Social media perils can have fatal consequences on a company's brand reputation when there is a crisis. How brands can better use social media to manage crises is a million dollar question.

According to a report by Meltwater titled "State of Social Media 2023", social media has become more important for businesses due to economic uncertainties. Over 30% of organizations in the Asia-Pacific region use social listening to prevent and manage crises.

But what more can be done?

Montieth Illingworth said it was important to have a social media policy as part of a larger crisis communications plan. Illingworth said that regular posts, engagement, establishing a "voice" that is balanced and reasonable, and acknowledging people's concerns are all important to how using social media can be helpful.

When it comes to the brand's own social media page, it's important to include a long term sustaining strategy for nurturing a positive and friendly social character. They said that you will be amazed by the protection that the armor provides.

We Are Social said it advises its clients to stay authentic in their message and the tone of voice, especially for crisis communications, because that's the audience's expectation on a more short-form

Yatta's Oslen suggests that clients and their agencies work out a basic social crisis plan that establishes a mutual agreement to have eyes and ears.

Chua agreed with her view that brands should spend more time preparing for crises than predicting them. It is important for brands to invest in developing a watertight protocol for crisis management that outlines best practices and responsibilities of the team members involved.

Chua said there should be regular monitoring of online sentiment, so that when crisis breaks, instead of going into a panic, they are better equipped to prevent spread of misinformation.

While it is important that the speed of reply should rival or outpace the speed of spread, it is also equally important to identify the underlying message of the negativity, so you won't end up pouring water over an electrical fire.

Vin Ng, director at social media agency Spread-it, said it's important for brands to have a social media communication plan in case of an emergency. He said that honesty, openness, and compassion are important for brands to communicate with.

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