In recent years, due to the increased use of social media and the growing sphere of influence audiences have in crisis management, a growing amount of research has focused on the topic of social media in crisis management. Organizations are using social media more and more in their crisis management strategies, but struggle when it comes to using it efficiently. A new emerging practice within social media crisis management is humor. This is becoming increasingly relevant due to the social nature of the platform, as well as the humorous element users expect when using social media platforms. As such, crisis management and humor are becoming increasingly relevant to consider in relation to social media. However, the use of humor in social media crisis management remains to be investigated in-depth. This is mainly due to the pre-existing conceptions that humor in this context is primarily negative - a double-edged sword that can only be used in highly specific contexts. Additionally, within the research conducted, social media crises remain to be considered through emphasizing organization-public relationships. These research gaps lead to the main goal of this thesis – investigating the use of humor in social media crisis management. Specifically, by analyzing three case studies of accidental crises faced by KFC, IHOP and Crockpot, this study aims to develop a better understanding of the use of humor in social media crisis management. As such, the main research question considered was What role may humor play in the crisis and reputation management of a company? This was investigated by analyzing company and user tweets surrounding the crises through qualitative content analysis. Twitter was selected for analysis as it marks a highly popular platform in the field of crisis management. A total of 836 tweets were selected, of which 677 were user tweets and 159 company tweets. The emphasis on user tweets comes from the need to better understand users to develop efficient standard practices. Results suggest that humor is an efficient crisis management tool that remains to be investigated more in-depth. However, initial suggestions stemming from the analysis suggest that humor can be effective when used in the right context, depending on the type of crisis the company finds itself in, its’ previous reputation, as well as the preferred humor of the target audience. Furthermore, findings related to audience preferences revealed that audiences are not only using Twitter to share and discover new opinions, but also to engage in social media norms by sharing information, creating potentially viral content, and playing an increasingly important role in the success of the social media crisis management of the company.

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Sergül Nguyen
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Amy van Creveld. (2022, June 27). Hashtags, laughs, and criticism: Humor in social media crisis management Investigating best practices through qualitative research. Media & Business. Retrieved from