Study: Facebook posts encourage positive public opinion in times of crisis

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Business owners, including long-term care providers, might find Facebook an asset during a crisis, according to a new study.

When the public reads a news story about a crisis and then sees Facebook posts from the affected institution, their attitudes toward the facility are significantly more positive, University of Missouri-Columbia researchers found. Those surveyed also felt the crisis was less severe after viewing the posts.

Seoyeon Hong, a doctoral candidate at the MU School of Journalism, created fictional universities to measure peoples' attitudes toward crises. In addition to discovering Facebook posts create positive responses to an emergency event, she found that posts written in a narrative style were more effective. A narrative style is chronological and focuses on story telling, rather than fact listing.

This study shows that Facebook can be a valuable tool for public relations professionals when they're working to solve or lessen the severity of a crisis, Hong said. 

“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.”

Long-term care providers, for instance, could take to Facebook in the event of a fire or other dire event to keep their followers informed. Posts about what happened chronologically and the provider's responses, plus assuring residents' safety, could counteract inaccurate local news stories.

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