iStock_000025444717SmallBest practice has always dictated that the way for a business to respond to a crisis is to communicate rather than hide away in the shadows. However, the time in which an organisation has to prepare a response has been dramatically slashed by the rise of the internet and in particular social media. And the costs of not responding are now so great that no company can ever again afford to bury its head in the sand and just hope everything will ‘blow over’.

Today the public expects a swift, open and honest dialogue through social media channels. Even B2B organisations that don’t deal directly with the public also need to recognise that having a crisis communication plan in place is now a mandatory, rather than desirable, requirement.

New research published in the journal Chaos by Fei Xiong and Yun Liu shows the old wisdom of prompt response is more important than ever. You now need to take ownership of the conversation faster than ever before.

The researchers collected about 6 million tweets over a six month period. They sorted them for either positive or negative sentiment and then focussed on three electronics-related topics

In all three cases, they found that once conversation starts, some initial fluctuation of sentiment occurs before it quickly settles down leaving a single clear opinion in a stable and dominant position. And once that opinion has been established, the researchers showed it is very difficult to change.

But what does that mean for me?

The first key takeaway is that in the event of a crisis you need to be communicating more, more clearly and faster than ever before. And you need to be communicating across a range of channels – with Twitter being one of the first to jump on.

Even if you don’t have full access to the complete story, your communications should follow the simple ‘regret, reason, remedy’ format discussed in our free eBook.

The second key takeaway is that you need to be actively monitoring Twitter to avoid a social media crisis such as the ‘United breaks guitars’ incident that knocked 10% off the airline’s share price over night.

Having access to social media monitoring tools and a technology PR agency that can set up and run a social media listening post are crucial to ensuring that a single disgruntled customer doesn’t cause a crisis that could have been easily managed.

In this day and age, where reputation and public opinion is becoming more and more important in influencing buying decisions can you afford not to be working with a technology PR agency that can ensure you are the first to know about a developing social media crisis and able to make your case early?

To learn more about how you can take ownership of the crisis at a very early stage, download our free crisis communications eBook.