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Can an apology change after-crisis user attitude? The role of social media in online crisis management

Ying Li (School of Business, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China)
Ke Yang (School of Business, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China)
Jin Chen (Nottingham University Business School China, University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Ningbo, China)
Sumeet Gupta (Department of Information Technology and Systems, Indian Institute of Management, Raipur, India)
Feiyang Ning (School of Business, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 5 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing upon the Elaboration Likelihood Model, the purpose of this paper is to examine how the characteristics of social media moderate the effect of a firm’s apology on the attitude of its customers.

Design/methodology/approach

An online experiment including 360 active users of internet was employed to test the research model.

Findings

Results revealed that an after-crisis apology and firm reputation both have a positive effect on after-crisis user attitude toward the firm. Furthermore, the positive effect of apology becomes stronger as online media interactivity increases, whereas the positive effect of reputation becomes weaker.

Research limitations/implications

This study included only one important characteristic of social media, and experimental scenarios were limited to car recall crisis. Considering that social media has so many platforms that may have different kinds of interactivity, further studies can be conducted to figure out the most suitable social media for firms to deal with an online crisis.

Practical implications

The results inform managers of the importance of after-crisis apology and firm reputation. It is worthwhile for managers to find out the levels of online media interactivity at which users focus on apology and reputation and accordingly conduct an effective online crisis management response strategy.

Originality/value

This study extends the literature on online crisis management and the literature on ELM by highlighting the role of online media interactivity in influencing the persuasive effectiveness of firm’s crisis response in the context of social media.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by Humanities and Social Science Research Project of Ministry of Education of China (15YJA630033), Shanghai Pujiang Program (14PJC023), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (71772061).

Citation

Li, Y., Yang, K., Chen, J., Gupta, S. and Ning, F. (2019), "Can an apology change after-crisis user attitude? The role of social media in online crisis management", Information Technology & People, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 802-827. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-03-2017-0103

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited