(Report) Social Media Crises On Rise: Be Prepared by Climbing the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs

What’s a crises? We did analysis on the list of social media crises aka “punkings” to find out what went wrong, why, and what should have been done.

First, a workable definition on Social Media Crises for this report: A social media crisis is an issue that arises in or is amplified by social media, and results in negative mainstream media coverage, a change in business process, or financial loss.

To refine further, while crises may happen on a daily basis we wanted to focus on crises that had the actual outcomes: We categorized each crisis according to three severity levels: Level 1 is for crises that result in negative coverage in mainstream media; Level 2 is for crises that result in negative coverage in mainstream media, and a significant response or change by the company; and Level 3 is for crises that result in short-term financial impact.


Above: Social Media Crises (as defined above) are on the Rise

To make matters worse, we also saw a slight uptick from unavoidable NGO attacks against brands (like Greenepeace vs Nestle/Mattel), which is a new form of one organization and its members attacking another, causing their social media efforts to quickly be overrun from hundreds to thousands of NGO fans.

Most Crises Could Have Been Diminished or Averted if Company Was PreparedCauses of Social Media Crises

Above: Yet most can be Diminished or Averted, and Causes of Most Crises Originate from Company

Interestingly, we found that 76% of these crises could have been prevented or diminished had the brand been prepared and had proper training, staff, and processes to respond (Read the report in detail to learn more).


Above: Embedded is the report, which details the methodology, findings, and recommendations. 30k views in 24 hours on slideshare.

In this Report, Learn How Advanced Companies Prepared
What you’ll find in this report, is we found out how the advanced companies (I’d also add that many of them have experienced crises as a turning point, like Dell) used this to their advantage to spearhead internal change momentum.   We found there are four common ways brands are investing in internal readiness, and we dissect their business benefits, as well as where they need to continue to invest.   Here’s the full report, embedded below, you can download it from slideshare at well, there are no registration pages.

Social Business Hierarchy of Needs
Be Prepared: Companies Must Ascend the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs
In a tribute to Maslow’s work on our individual hierarchy of needs, we noticed a pattern than companies undergo a similar growth.   Companies must fulfill the requirements at the bottom of the pyramid and then layer on top of success, building each layer.  To date, we found only a few companies that are getting near enlightenment, which we will feature in our upcoming work. Here’s a pattern we found from the advanced companies:

1) Foundation: First, develop a business plan and put governance in place.
2) Safety: Then, get organized by anointing a team and process to deal with crises.
3) Formation: Next, connect business units to increase coordination and reduce duplication.
4) Enablement: Grow by letting them prosper give business units the support and flexibility to reach goals
5) Enlightenment: Finally, weave real-time market response into business processes and planning.

Open Research: Read it, Apply it, Spread it
The more you spread it, the easier it is for me to produce more reports. This research was 100% funded by Altimeter Group, and we are releasing it under Creative Commons so you can use it in your planning, presentations, and blog posts. You can download the report directly from Slideshare, and use the images provided below for your slides. I’ve embedded sharing buttons on the upper right side of this post, for your convenience. This six month plus research project was conducted by a team, and I’d like to thank Andrew Jones, Christine Tran, and Andrew Nguyen.

Coverage: Related Links About This Report
I’ll cross link to valuable reviews and mentions.


Brand Side

Press, Media, Interviews

Thought Leaders


Social Software Providers

Professional Organizations

Learn More: Upcoming Speeches and Webinars Discussing These Findings
Here’s a few upcoming locations I’ll be discussing these findings, to learn more, see my speaking page.

Related Reports:  Career Path of the Social Strategist, How to Budget for Social Business, Facebook Best Practices, view all research.

Update: Thanks Jon Spangler for noticing a typo, which I’ve corrected

118 Replies to “(Report) Social Media Crises On Rise: Be Prepared by Climbing the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs”

  1. Every morning, I hear ads for Reputation.com, and it comes off as black-hat social media crisis management. Do you have any insight into their product?

  2. excellent study and even more, you’re share policy is amazing, one of the things that makes me see Altimeter just like others see Google: an awesome place creating knowledge and being open and fun to be at! 

  3. Awesome and thorough report here.   It really goes to show you that having an informed social media manager is an important investment, first in avoiding possible crises and in dealing pro-actively with the unavoidable.  You really need to stay on top of social media 24/7 because things can swing so quickly.

  4. The pyramid that you shared here’s definitely the way to go. In most cases in a business, that’s how you’re supposed to roll. You have to have a clear and strong base to get to the top easier. You shouldn’t break the foundation because it’s what keeps everything standing.

    — Man Ray

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