Saturday, December 26, 2015

Crisis Management: Facebook Comments and The Silent Majority

As social media becomes increasingly ubiquitous, crisis managers often monitor social media to gauge stakeholders' reaction to the crisis. The volume (and syntax) of Facebook likes, shares and comments are tracked and analyzed to guide the crisis management team's public response to the crisis.
 
While useful, recent research has shown that Facebook likes, shares and comments may not be representative of the public's true sentiments. This is because, recent analysis of Facebook comments made during a crisis, reveals that the majority of comments come from a few vocal opponents of the company/ organization. Thus, while the user engagement rate (used as a proxy for public angst) is high, this is artificial as the angst is contained within the few vocal opponents of the company/ organization.
 
As such, while engagement rates do provide some insights into public sentiments, they need to be analyzed against the reach of the Facebook post. The same study revealed that there were many instances in which Facebook users read a post about the crisis but chose not to act and this number is assessed to be representative of the silent majority. Thus, in a scenario where there is high reach and a high engagement rate which is confined to the vocal minority, crisis managers can safer assume that the impact on stakeholders is not high.
 
As a guide, crisis managers should use social media monitoring as one of the data points to be considered when assessing stakeholder anger. Using it together with other assessment tools like ground surveys and focus groups will give the crisis manager a more accurate sense of the situation and will minimize instances of over-reacting.

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