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Social media crises impacting on corporate reputation could be avoided

The number of social media crises that have the ability to go viral and impact corporate reputation and performance is increasing, according to research by New York based Altimeter Group.

The research consultancy considered crises that either arose from or were exacerbated by social media and were picked up by traditional media channels, such as newspapers or television.

Altimeter, which considered American style crises, identified six cases this year against ten recorded last year.

It claimed that 50 crises were made worse by social media during the period 2001 and 2011. Just over one in five cases were exacerbated by YouTube while online blogs created problems in ten cases. Twitter, which is just five years old, accounted for 18 per cent of the problems, while Facebook notched up 14 per cent.

Seven of these resulted from what Altimeter Group described as 'inappropriate content', eight were due to 'rogue' employees while 12 resulted from ethical failures.

Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, claims that three in four crises could potentially have been avoided or moderated more successfully had correct training and crisis management strategies been provided from the outset.

Tesco customer Nancy Atkinson-Turner was accused of shoplifting shampoo in August. Outraged she blogged about her treatment, saying: 'I went to the checkout. Paid for all my shopping and then walked to the travelator to exit the store. It was here that I was pounced on by a security guard...My children, by this point, were crying.'

Tesco tried to contact Atkinson-Turner personally but was not swift enough to prevent her tweeting the 'Not Now Nancy' blog; it has since been read by more than 50,000 people.