Eriksson, Mats (2018). Lessons for Crisis Communication on Social Media: A Systematic Review of What Research Tells the Practice. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 12(5), 526-551.
The growing interest in lists of dos and don’ts for social media usage during crises extends far beyond only identifying different kinds of organizations’ development of policies for the use of social media during crises, disasters and emergencies. During the last decade, a number of scientific studies have offered online and social media crisis communication practitioners practical implications and/or “best practices” in the areas of informatics, marketing, public relations as well as disaster- and crisis-management research. This study analyzes explicit pieces of advice for effective social media crisis communication given by researchers in various sub-disciplines of strategic communication.
The study was conducted by the procedure for a systematic literature review. To deeply investigate the existing research on crisis communication and social media, this study applies both qualitative and quantitative analysis methods, analyzing a large sample of peer-reviewed articles (and conference papers) from different sub-fields and/or journals.
By aggregating recommendations from the studies – from different disciplines – the study finds that effective crisis communication is about using social media’s potential to:
(1) create dialogue and to choose the right message, source and timing;
(2) perform pre-crisis work and develop an understanding of social media logic;
(3) use social media monitoring;
(4) continue to prioritize traditional media in crisis situations.
(5) Finally, in line with some researchers’ explicit “gospel” of social media, effective crisis communication is also about using social media in its own right during crises.
Implications for Practice
All the identified lessons are to a large extent based on studies by U.S. scholars. A large proportion of the identified lessons also rest on analyses of Twitter. Therefore it is also important for practitioners to take advice from research from other continents and contexts. This could, for example, increase the understanding of the importance of different media usage patterns and cultural factors for effective social media crisis communication. Almost half of communication professionals today communicate internationally on a regular basis and communication practitioners work in an environment where they need to communicate across national, cultural, and linguistic borders.
The full article is available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1553118X.2018.151040z