Managing Crisis on Social Media
May 12, 2017


THE last two years were tough for a number of automotive companies. First it was Volkswagen with its emissions scandal that damaged its reputation in 2015. Then last year, Toyota Motor Corp recalled more than 20 million vehicles globally to fix faulty airbag mechanism. Honda, too, had to recall millions of its cars worldwide due to faulty airbag activators. Then there was Tesla, which was affected by an “autopilot” feature which was said to be flawed.


There’s no denying that the reputation of these companies was affected as a result of the crises. The ensuing bad press may have caused considera­ble economic losses.


There are many ways to tackle a corporate crisis. One can fix the problem and assure customers that you are addressing the problem. Alternatively, one can also embark on a public relations exercise to repair the damage done.


In the case of a Japanese automotive giant, it decided to take its battle to the social media. When the airbag scandal became public knowledge, its brand began trending on Google and Twitter daily for all the wrong reasons. Although the carmaker did many things right to contain the crisis, it actually had an insurmountable public relations task on its hands.


The airbag recall quickly evolved to become a behe­moth of a crisis. During this period, conversation volume on social networks regarding its car spiked 163.7%.


As the crisis continued, it became apparent that it was more about managing the company than the social media crisis. The company’s reputation sank to new lows. Customers began voicing fear and doubt about its cars.



The carmaker’s senior executives also faced intense anger from customers. The severity of the crisis was unfolding before them on social media, news por­tals, forums and blogs, creating a perfect storm for its public relations department.


This was when it decided to listen to online conversations. It began to communicate directly with its constit­uents, provide accurate information while dispelling misinformation being circulated on social networks. As a result, it was able to relate to its cus­tomers quickly, while assuring them of its highest level of dedication to resolve the crisis.


Take advantage of social media listening tools


Social listening tools have been around for some years. The latest social media listening tools are robust and intelligent enough to track developments in real time. They are exceptionally useful to retail and service-oriented businesses.


You can immediately gain a holistic view on how your brand is trending worldwide while at the same time mon­itor what is happening closer to your city or town. Using sentiment analysis, one can immediately trace negative views. Remedial actions could be taken to pacify customers by providing the right information at the right time.


The Japanese carmaker did well to handle the airbag recall crisis, thanks to advanced social media listening tools.



Filtering garbage data: The four Vs


But how does one make sense of all the irrelevant garbage information prevalent in social networks? It is true that online conversations can yield good information as well as garbage data. However, by analysing linguistic structures and unstructured data online, we need not “throw the baby out with the bath water”.


Data scientists use social media listening tools as a subset of big data analytics. Today, social media listening tools are useful in providing insights into unstructured data occurring in online conversations.


These conversations are usually measured using advanced analytics in four key dimensions: volume, velocity, variety and veracity. Volume refers to amount of conversations occurring on a particular topic while velocity refers to the speed at which the information is trending and shared by users on social networks. Variety refers to online conversations featuring a myriad of views which may contain information on various matters.


Tracking Shifts in Customer Tastes

For instance, someone may post a comment on handbag prices having risen beyond affordability. The post could elicit a variety of comments. For instance, it could attract comments such as constituents liking the com­ment or disagreeing with it. Others may suggest alternatives to buying high quality but cheap handbags. All these are useful information for any growth-oriented business organisation.


But can news on social media be trusted? I admit that this is a problem. There are just too many fake news and information that is untrue. But monitoring social networks is still the best way to track shifts in customer tastes while monitoring various other business matters.

To move with the times, local busi­nesses should embrace big data and social media analytics to grow their business. Become a smarter business organisation via social listening tools.


Prathab V is with Anderson Market Analytics. He enjoys the power of social listening and thinks companies can manage their brand image better in a cost-effective manner. He can be con­tacted at