The ODEON Facebook crisis & Edgerank: Why social media crisis management is more vital than ever

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  • August 31, 2012
Fi Dunphy

Fi Dunphy

Content and Social Strategist

This week, Sean at The Wall Blog reported on a social media firestorm whipped up by one 466-word post by one disgruntled customer on ODEON Cinemas’ Facebook timeline.

Sean has suggested in the comments section of his post that one nice follow-up to it would be to highlight the implications of EdgeRank on such complaints – so here it is, Sean!

The backstory…

The post has now garnered over 194k likes and over 16k comments (and counting):

Odeon's Facebook wall

Now it’s obvious that Mr Pledger’s nicely worded and emotive complaint post touched a nerve with many cinemagoers, which is why, to some extent, the crisis has gone so far. But ODEON’s tardy response and poor crisis management tactics certainly didn’t help:

Response #1: Saturday 25/08/12 (19+ hrs after the complaint, and clearly hurried):

Response number one

Response #2: Tue 28 Aug (just chipping in again to the debate with a more considered response):

Response number two

Sean unwittingly misreported that ODEON didn’t respond as soon as it did. This was pointed out by ODEON Social Media rep, Alexandra (well done, very proactive, if a little snitty), in the comments section of Sean’s post:

Comment from Odeon Social Media Rep

Fair enough. But as Sean rightly pointed out, while ODEON did respond, it did so too late, and in the wrong way, by merely posting a couple of responses among the thousands of other comments, leaving it to get instantly swallowed up.

Instead, says Sean, a sticky (highlighted) post should have also been posted to the top of its timeline to reassure customers other than Mr Pledger that the complaint had been dealt with, because after all, it wasn’t just his gripe the company needed to quell.

No wonder ODEON’s response was misreported – it was virtually invisible.

Oh, and incidentally, having itself picked up (and commented) on the original post, BBC Radio 4 also broadcast a show about the cinema experience on Wednesday as a result:

BBC Radio Four

So. ODEON did respond, and while the damage limitation it exercised was too little and came too late, it seems that the topic is such an emotive one that ODEON had little power to stop the firestorm once it had begun to spread.


Whatever the case, it’s absolutely vital for brands to:

a) have a sound crisis management plan in place, and

b) understand that a 9-5 social media department just doesn’t cut it when a business operates outside of these hours, because it’s clear that this Facebook complaint spread virally throughout Facebook due to the enigmatic force that is EdgeRank.

Why Edgerank helps damaging content like this spread virally…

If you’re not already familiar with the term ‘EdgeRank’, it is an algorithm that determines which posts, content and updates appear in users’ news feeds.

It is thought that EdgeRank assigns scores to every post and page based on affinity score, edge weight and time decay:

–          EdgeRank looks at the engagement (affinity) that a user has with any content posted by a user/brand page, as well as how well-connected the user is to that content’s creator.

–          EdgeRank then increases or decreases the relevance (weight) that is applied to any future content from that content creator in relation to the user, which affects whether or not more content will appear in their feed from that content creator.

–          The older said content is, the less likely it is to appear in users’ feeds (time decay).

Each fan has a different affinity score with a user/brand page – for example, if they have engaged with it (i.e. by commenting on or liking its posts), the likelihood of future content from that user/brand page appearing in their news feed is much higher than if the user doesn’t interact with the content at all.

This likelihood decreases with time, so if a user doesn’t interact with content for a while, then it becomes less and less likely that that brand’s content will appear in their news feed.

However – in the case of the ODEON post, because it was

a)      dealt with poorly,

b)      instantly exposed to ODEON’ large, 256k-strong fanbase,

c)       a well-worded, emotive post, and

d)      about a hot topic that affects many,

the exposure was exponential and news of the post spread virally throughout Facebook, like so:

–          When Matt Pledger left his post on the ODEON Cinemas page, it would have appeared in the feeds of his Facebook network, depending on each individual’s affinity with him and/or the ODEON Cinemas page.

–          If people in Matt’s network liked/commented on his post, their activity would have shown up in their own networks’ feeds (some of whom would be seeing this activity for the second, third, fourth etc. time, depending on who in Matt’s network was also in theirs, and who of those people commented on/liked the post, and their affinity with one another and/or ODEON).

So this is how such brand-page content spreads virally throughout Facebook, regardless of whether or not users are fans of that page. The fact that users can also like or comment on a page’s content without even having to be a fan means that things can very quickly get out of hand if not managed well.

Brands, the moral of this story is…

Ensure you’ve got a watertight crisis management plan specifically tailored to your social media channels, and if your business operates outside of office hours while your social media team currently doesn’t, seriously consider changing operations so that at least some portion of it does.

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