Is Facebook an effective crisis communication tool for companies?: an analysis of BP's Facebook usage after the oil spill in 2010

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University of Alabama Libraries

This dissertation was designed to explore the effects of Facebook in corporate crisis communication and the factors that contribute or hinder the effects with a focus on the British Petroleum's (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis in 2010. Within the theoretical frameworks of the situational crisis communication theory, the attribution theory, and the social identity theory, this dissertation analyzed BP America's crisis communication messages and Facebook users' comments on BP America's Facebook page with a quantitative content analysis, and examined influence of congruence between Facebook users' comments and BP's messages on publics' perceived image of BP with an experiment. The content analysis results revealed that rebuilding strategies dominated BP's crisis response, and Facebook users were more likely to comment favorably when BP used accommodative strategies. The results also suggest that bolstering strategies and third party endorsement may not work as expected. The experimental results suggest that Facebook may have the potential to be an effective crisis communication tool in affecting publics' perceived image of an organization-in-crisis, and the effects of Facebook are limited to the strategies used by the organization, congruence between Facebook users' comments and the organization's messages, publics' precrisis attitudes toward the organization, and publics' perceived social connection to Facebook users. Theoretical and practical implications of this study were discussed.

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