Choosing response strategies in social media crisis communication: An evolutionary game theory perspective

L. Wang, C. Schütz, D. Cai
Schu21b (2021)
Journal Information & Management, Vol. 58, No. 6, Sep. 2021, Elsevier Science Publ., Article 103371, ISSN 0378-7206, DOI:, 2021.
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Abstract (English)

When a company experiences the proliferation of negative information on social media, typically as a result of an incident in the real world, the company must decide whether to react positively, such as by responding in a timely manner, disclosing the facts, or offering an apology or compensation, or by reacting negatively with a denial or threat of legal actions. Before responding, the company should consider the potential impacts due to the different reactions of stakeholders. A company's ideal choice of strategy during a social media storm depends on the costs of that strategy for the company and the likelihood that netizens will publicly condemn the company on social media. In this study, we employ a model based on evolutionary game theory to investigate crisis communication on social media. The results show that the company's choice of response strategy influences the evolution of the strategy pursued by Internet users. In the base model, we consider three possible actions for netizens on social media in reaction to an incident: ignoring the incident, noticing the incident but staying silent, and condemning the company and transmitting negative information. Subsequently, we extend the base model to consider complex network structures and defensive behavior. We also studied real-world cases of social media crisis communication and conducted numeric simulations with different parameters in order to determine the evolutionary equilibrium in different situations, which may inform the crisis response strategy selected by companies.