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The Power of Twitter: Iranian Election as a Case Study in Crisis Communication

June 18th, 2009 | | Reputation Management, Social Media & SEO

Twitter can improve your SEO, Twitter can be an amazing branding tool, but now Twitter is affecting international relations and helping mold the course of political history. If you’re still wondering if Twitter has the power to function as a valuable marketing tool, well, then talk to the U.S. State Department.

The protests and demonstrations after last Friday’s Iranian election are playing out in real-time on Twitter, even despite government filters and media restrictions. Even the candidates were using Twitter to communicate with the Iranian people and calm the uproar. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the last Prime Minister of Iran and a candidate in the June 12, 2009, election, was Tweeting to voters via his official campaign Twitter—hoping to calm demonstrators and keep the situation from escalating. Iranian citizens, Americans and other nationals in Iran, and journalists in Iran overcame government censorship firewalls to tweet the latest news of the election because Twitter was one of very few remaining lines of uncensored communication with the outside world. A powerful role for a social networking medium, and the necessity of Twitter during this tumultuous time wasn’t overlooked by the U.S. State Department in their attempt to monitor the developing election aftermath.

After Tehran shut down websites, cell phones and newspapers approaching the elections and as the protests escalated, Twitter became a key method of communication. So much so that the U.S. State Department requested that Twitter postpone a scheduled maintenance shutdown so that the world would continue to get the latest from Iran. Iranian officials are seeing just what Twitter can do and, in an effort to stop the flood of information, pictures and videos of protests, they have ordered that people remove all material that could “create tension” from Twitter and other social networking sites or face legal action.

There’s no ignoring the fact that the world has adopted Twitter as a method of real-time communication. The media is watching it as well as millions of users around the world. When all other communications we have come to rely on (TV, print, email, phone) have failed, Twitter becomes even more vital to communication.

A Lesson in Crisis Communication

Your company may not be overseeing a volatile national election, but crises do arise every day in business. Whether it’s a product recall or a misprint in an advertisement, you need to speak directly to, and with, consumers. Twitter has the power to dispel troublesome rumors, relay vital information and create a dialogue with the public in the even of a company crisis. With Twitter you can speak first, create a conversation, and respond to inquiries— all in a personal medium that lends itself to credibility and honest communication.

Social media is becoming a mainstay in daily communication, and Twitter is proving itself a powerful form of communication in real-world situations. Prepare your crisis communications plan with Twitter in mind. Whether or not you’re using Twitter for crisis communications, you can be assured that you’re customers, colleagues and competitors are—be prepared.

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