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Do Social Media Crises Even Really Exist?

13 Mar

unicornThere has been a lot of online chatter lately regarding what a “true” social media crisis is. Many are arguing that a social media incident is only really a crisis when all business must cease and total, irreparable brand-damage is on the horizon. Think traditional crises such as the BP oil spill, Tylenol (because I know tons of you are thinking Tylenol right now!) and, most recently, Carnival Triumph.

The individuals arguing this point are not wrong.

However, there are also arguments stating that recent online issues, such as Chick-Fil-A and Applebee’s are not technically social media crises, because business did not need to come to a complete halt.

There is a difference

There is a different between a social media crisis and a social media issue, as I mention often within these blog pages. However, what I would like to address within this post, are the differences between traditional crises and “new-age” or social media crises. Because there too, lies a difference. One that many are not realizing.

Now before I explain, let me clearly state that: there are social media crises; there are social media issues; there are traditional crises that naturally evolve to taking place online, social media included; and there are crises that begin and end on social (and the Internet as a whole). Within this post, I am referring to those that begin and end online.

Traditional crises, the type of business-halting incidents that companies have been facing since before social media was even close to existing, have a definition, as is stated above. The examples of BP, Tylenol and Carnival Triumph are examples of major crises that absolutely affect the way a business will function during the crisis, as well as post-crisis.

Crises that form and die online are different. A ship can’t sink online. People can’t get cyanide poisoning online. Oil can’t spill and polute the earth and water, online. However, damage can be done to a brand’s reputation online. People can voice their opinions by the millions and bring an organization to a paralyzing halt, online.

My point is that traditional crises and online crises, though often intertwined, when differentiated on their own, as I have done above, are different. They’re both potentially damaging in their own way, but just because they don’t have the same cause and effect, doesn’t make them any less of a crisis for the company facing them.

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2 Responses to “Do Social Media Crises Even Really Exist?”

  1. JoelinPDX March 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    But the difference between the Tynelol crisis and the Carnival Triumph crisis is social media. When Tylenol's problems arose, it was a matter of whether or not the news media would pick up the story. At the time, the news media was heavily edited. That is, there were several well defined layers between the reporters and the ultimate consumers.

    No such editorial layer exists for much of the online/digital media today. Thanks to mobile phones, passengers were able to communicate to friends and relatives back home. The blogosphere (which includes Facebook and Twitter) went wild with the story. Without digital communication who's to say the story would have ever been published…at least int he way it was.

    So, to answer the question "Do Social Media Crises Even Really Exist?" Of course they do, and social media crises exist where before there would have been no crisis.

    • Melissa Agnes March 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Excellent addition, Joelin! Within this post I was hitting on the "starts online, ends online" crisis situations – but what you've just written would make an excellent post in itself!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and share your thoughts with us all!

      Have a great weekend,

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