University of Twente Student Theses


Responding to online firestorms on social media : an analysis of the two company cases Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci

Wekwerth, Z.M. (2019) Responding to online firestorms on social media : an analysis of the two company cases Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci.

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Abstract:The rise of social media enables consumers to share criticism and negative opinions about a company to a large number of people within a short period of time, possibly leading to huge waves of outrage. This phenomenon, called online firestorm, poses new challenges and risks for companies (Pfeffer, Zorbach, & Carley, 2014). Research has shown that such online firestorms can damage brand reputation and may lead to customer losses and drops in sales volumes. This thesis aims to examine how organizations can react to a firestorm in order to interrupt its further spread and hence, avoid these negative consequences. To reach this objective, we ask the following research question: “How do companies respond to online firestorms on social media in order to prevent a further dissemination of the firestorm and how effective are these response strategies?”. By analyzing the two company cases Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, this study applies a mixed method approach. In the first step we deploy qualitative content analysis based on situational crisis communication theory and inductive coding in order to identify the firestorm response strategies of the respective companies. In the second step we determine the effectiveness of these response strategies by applying automatic sentiment analysis to the users’ reactions to the company responses. Our results show that the two companies adopted different response strategies, leading to different consumer reactions. Based on that, we find that accommodative responses, including Rebuilding and Bolstering strategies should be chosen over defensive responses, including Denial. These accommodative responses have to be sincere, as insincere responses upset consumers. In addition, we confirm that it is highly important to respond as fast as possible to an online firestorm. Furthermore, we find that the firestorm response should go beyond apologizing by including supporting means which prove a company’s dedication to improve and create credibility.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies, 85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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