Social Media Strategies in Product Harm Crises

Posted: 7 Dec 2017 Last revised: 21 Jul 2020

See all articles by Shu He

Shu He

University of Connecticut - Department of Operations & Information Management

Huaxia Rui

University of Rochester - Simon Business School

Andrew B. Whinston

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management

Date Written: December 2, 2017

Abstract

When a focal firm undergoes a product-harm crisis, non-focal firms offering similar products or services can suffer from a negative spillover effect but can also benefit from customers switching from the troubled focal firm, which we call the competitive effect. In response, a non-focal firm can adapt its marketing strategy in consideration of these two opposing effects. Because social media is a flexible medium through which firms can quickly adjust marketing strategies in response to such unexpected events, we study how non-focal firms adjust their post-crisis social media efforts to induce purchases and to improve customer relationships --- two strategies known in the literature as offensive and defensive marketing, respectively. In particular, we use the daily social media activities of 56 major airlines on Twitter around the time of the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash to study how non-focal airlines ran offensive and defensive marketing on social media before and after the crisis. We find that, on average, non-focal airlines increased their defensive marketing efforts but decreased their offensive marketing efforts after the crash, which we attribute to the negative spillover effect. However, the strategic adjustment of decreasing offensive marketing is attenuated by the competition between non-focal airlines and the focal one, which we attribute to the moderating role of the competitive effect. These results are shown to be robust in various tests and reveal how the interplay of the two effects of a product-harm crisis on non-focal firms shapes their post-crisis social media strategies.

Keywords: Social Media; Offensive Marketing; Defensive Marketing; Product-Harm Crisis

Suggested Citation

He, Shu and Rui, Huaxia and Whinston, Andrew B., Social Media Strategies in Product Harm Crises (December 2, 2017). Information Systems Research, Forthcoming, University of Connecticut School of Business Research Paper No. 17-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3081596

Shu He (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - Department of Operations & Information Management ( email )

368 Fairfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-2041
United States

Huaxia Rui

University of Rochester - Simon Business School ( email )

Rochester, NY 14627
United States

Andrew B. Whinston

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management ( email )

CBA 5.202
Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-471-8879 (Phone)

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