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Facebook Proves Valuable as Damage Control Tool

facebook icon . / Credit: Facebook Image via Shutterstock

Facebook is more than just a powerful tool for building your brand, promoting your business and engaging customers; it can also help you with damage control. When an organization is faced with a crisis, using Facebook as a public relations tool can significantly improve the organization's overall image, a new study finds.

The study, conducted by Seoyeon Hong, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and Bokyung Kim, a professor at Rowan University in New Jersey, found that narrative status updates posted directly by an organization on Facebook have a positive impact on users during a crisis.

"Many studies have already shown how important crisis management is for organizations," Hong said in a statement. "This study shows that Facebook can be a valuable tool for public relations professionals when working to solve or lessen the severity of a crisis."

[Companies in Crisis Still Mostly Ignore Social Media]

In the study, Hong and Kim created two fictional universities. Each university experienced a crisis, the details of which were given to participants as news stories. After reading the news stories, Hong measured the participants' attitudes toward each university and how severe they thought each crisis was.

Participants were then presented with Facebook posts from the universities' Facebook accounts. The updates were posted directly by the universities and gave additional information about the crisis.

After the participants read the posts, Hong measured the participants' attitudes once more and found that they became significantly more positive toward the universities. The participants also rated the crises as less severe.

Based on these findings, Facebook posts seem to have a positive impact on crisis management.

"Because Facebook is very personal for its users, well-thought-out crisis management messages can be effective at reaching users on a personal level, which is a powerful way to persuade people to a cause,” Hong said.

The researchers also found that Facebook posts written in a narrative style — a chronological form of writing that focuses on storytelling rather than fact listing — were more effective in influencing the public than those in a non-narrative format.

"This indicates that the effect of narrative tone in organizational statements during crises increases perceived conversational human voice, which represents a high level of engagement and best communicates trust, satisfaction and commitment to the audience," Hong said. "This is an important practice for public relations professionals because perceptions that an organization is sincerely trying to provide timely and accurate information during a crisis can lead to not only more favorable attitudes toward the organization, but also perceptions of less responsibility the organization has for causing the crisis."

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.