As one of the first social media experts I have found myself in the mix of many social media crisis situations. By nature of the term "crisis" they are not pleasant. But they can, if managed well, be an opportunity to show the true strength and power of social network communities and result in positive outcomes.
I watched these events unfold over the last days and was frustrated by the traditional media and their lack of help. Officials and commentators provided rehearsed statements, finger pointing and platitudes without opportunity for question provided little help. It was online that solutions were found and people found the support they needed.
This current "crisis" is about Planet Yoga, a yoga studio that had been operating in Hong Kong for over 7 years. Over that time they had developed a long list of members past and present. When we started working with Planet Yoga they had virtually no online presence. We built up a strong Facebook community of over 7000 fans that allowed their ardent yoga members a place to communicate and share outside of the studio. During the creation of the community we had no idea of the full value of this community.
On May 13th at midnight Planet Yoga closed their doors abruptly and without prior public notice inline with rules of liquidation. Legally Planet Yoga needed to stop all communication and use the liquidation company for all further communication. However, a channel still existed that could be left open for their members to access information; Facebook.
Facebook quickly became the focal point for the Planet Yoga members to share emotions and information. Another Facebook page was opened but it did not gain the momentum that the original page had.
Hundreds of members offered support and consolation and expressed frustration and anger in many messages. But what was most compelling was the strong sense of community and the quick transformation of the page to a place to share and test information.
Members quickly assembled information and made it available. They set up emails and hot lines and organised off line meetings. The information found out by one was quickly shared to all making the process of finding solutions much more efficient. I watched this transformation happen quickly. In less than a day members had worked through issues and created great momentum in finding truths and support.
Traditional media will have a place in our lives for a long time to come. I personally hope it remains, as it provides a "stake in the ground" from which to measure other efforts. But it is clear that social media is where people increasingly turn to find the truth.