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The next article, conducted by Bowen Zheng, is a theory-based model that focuses on consumers’ secondary crisis communication through social media. By extending the existing understanding of secondary crisis communication literature from a social control perspective, he examined the context of social broadcasting on social media by considering the effect of opinion based context. Aiming to reveal how the public engages in the decision-making process related to secondary crisis communication (SCC) from a social control perspective, a survey was conducted after a real crisis in China. The results indicated that cognitive reputation led in SCC by causing the public to feel morally distraught, which leads to individuals being more likely to engage in SCC given the perception of support for their opinions on social media. Therefore, the study finds that those who feel a sense of reinforcement on social media will be more likely to share his or her opinions on social media, especially in a crisis.
The study conducted by Sofia Brantu explores the function social media technologies that acts as a serving agency to crisis communication, and the importance of social media in emergency management. By implementing the use of data collection, Brantu analyzes the self-sourcing of information by individuals that provides access to a broader series of information, however causing difficult tasks for the official regulation and synchronization of information. The recognition of social media and their function in many events worldwide have generated new concerns related to crisis communication approaches, while function of conventional leadership furthered by government officiating and mainstream media channels is altered within social media. But at the same time, social media acts as a gateway to mass connection and communication, making it a vital tactic in times of crisis that calls for the attention of a mass public. While social media can be manipulated into a governmental issue through fragmentation, Brantu concludes that social media can be used as a tool for sending messages to large numbers of people when needed, thus giving social media a more neutral effect on certain crisis in a more specified situation.
Hui Zhao’s experiment deals with authoritative action and, more specifically, how the Chinese government generated authority in a time of crisis through social media. Using the theoretical framework of authority and the method of genre analysis, this study examined the top 100 forwarded posts on Weibo about a high-profile murder to determine the mechanisms involved in generating authority. The research provides support that building and maintaining authority distinguishes governments from other social actors during crisis communication. The genre analysis demonstrates that by using databases and analysis of public records, power and control is given to the government during a crisis. Zhao concluded by stating the study suggests the performance and social construction approach to understand governments’ authority in the digital age on two levels: a situational based concept that goes beyond the context of fixed institutions, and a relational based concept that is promoted through diffusion, collaboration, and other variables.
The final study, done by Lucinda Austin, focuses on how publics get information via social media, and what factors affect it during a crisis. By using the social-mediated crisis communication model and an examination of crisis information through interviews and surveys of 184 college students, it was revealed that people use social media during a crisis mainly for inside information on procedures to take, as well as checking in on family and friends. The most popular form of crisis the college students turned to social media for was for some variation of a riot, whether it be from a major sporting event or the H1N1 flu outbreak. The biggest aspect of using social media during a crisis is convenience, as crucial information is provided at the touch of a button in real time. A problem people tend to run into when using social media, however, is credibility, and lack thereof, of some sources that can manipulate people into believing what is not actually true. Austin concludes that the information the study provided gave a unique aspect into social media by looking at how certain audiences use social media to gather information, as opposed to simply looking at how it is provided to the public.
After examining case studies on social media and crisis communication, a lot of information can be gathered to give a better understanding on how the platform correlates with dealing with a crisis. There are still, however, questions to be answered. The first question that arises through the articles is even with the rapid rise of media platforms, can organizations truly start to rely solely on social media to solve a crisis, or do the negative components outweigh the positives with this resource? The case studies provided mixed results, although when dealing specifically with finding information on a crisis, social media was typically found to be positive. The second question looks at a broader, but possibly even more important, aspect: How has social media affected people around the world during a crisis with social media’s rise of the last 10 years? By better understanding this question, people will not only get a better understanding of what media platforms to turn to during a crisis, but they will also have an idea of which sources are reliable and trustworthy.
Based on the literature review and the information they provide, there is enough findings from the various studies, surveys, and interviews to give sufficient answers to the research questions. The articles from Thompson, Liu, Zheng, and Austin help to answer the first research question. Based on their studies on the affects social media has on people and how they articulate a message, it can be concluded that social media does in fact offer positive support when dealing with a crisis or outbreak. Positive aspects include instant communication to potentially millions of people needing the information and close contact with family and friends that need to be reached at a moment’s notice. It is important, however, for an organization to word the message in a way that cannot be easily misunderstood, because a social media post is not a direct form of communication, meaning it can be construed in different ways, possibly negatively. The second research question is largely backed by the findings of Zhao and Mazer. Before social media, communication traveled much slower, meaning there were a lot more preventable casualties in crises such as natural disasters. If information was spread faster, people would have been able to have taken proper procedures and find safety. Now with social media outlets in the palms of millions of people across the world, there is no need to worry about finding ways to get vital information to people that could potentially end up in harm’s way. Social media has been an extremely compatible resource that should be used in all types of crisis now and in the future.
In conclusion, social media has been an uprising support system to people globally that are experiencing a crisis. Public relations practitioners can take away information involving the procedures to take when examining social media correlating with a crisis. Organizations should not shy away by the risk of backlash, and instead take advantage of the numerous platforms that can give important context to people with the push of a button. Campaigning for the push of social media can be beneficial for an organization and the public. We have never had easier access to instant communication until now, thanks to social media, so why not take advantage of it?
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