The New Year’s Eve party at Hilton Hotel, Colombo descended into chaos as a stage platform holding many VIP guests collapsed at the stroke of the new year. Hundreds of people crashed on to the floor, whilst holding glasses and lit sparklers. Many of the guests suffered injuries, cuts and burns and around thirty people were rushed to the hospital.
This unexpected and dreadful start to the new year is not what any of the guests looked forward to when they purchased the tickets costing around US $100. However, they had to spend the first few moments of the new year in shock and dismay. All parties concerning the event resorted to social media to express their concerns and feedback. The organizers and the host hotel issued statements of apology, while also providing details on how the guests could get connected with the organizers.
No real-time updates were to be found regarding the incident on Facebook or on Twitter. However, the first post of complaint appeared on the organizer’s Facebook page in the early hours of the day. An angry guest, whose friends had suffered injuries, shared details of their disappointing experience and complained about the reaction of the organizers. They also went on to request for compensation for the damages caused. Messages of complaints kept pouring in during the rest of the morning, by the guests who had been affected.
Hours after the incident took place, Cantaloupe Playground, the organizers of the event, issued several statements on their Facebook page, apologizing for the incident and forwarding their regards to those injured. The posts highlighted their course of action once the incident took place and passed on information on how the guests could receive restitution. The team gave their assurance that they would keep in touch with the guests in order to look into their well-being.
The posts were mostly received with high criticism, with the fans directing their anger whilst sharing their horrid experiences. Some of the guests even even made inquiries about how they could receive compensation for the ticket money and hospital charges. The organizers acknowledged some of the comments but most comments were left unanswered.
Hilton Hotel Colombo, the hosts of the event, issued a statement on their Facebook page confirming the incident and offering their regards to those affected by it. The fan feedback for this post was at a low level compared to the activity on the organizer’s Facebook page.
The guests took liberty to make their own comments as well as upload photographs of the aftermath on the Cantaloupe Playground page. A number of people shared their tragic experiences with lengthy details, complaining about how poorly they were assisted, or not assisted at all. Some fans pointed out the low safety measures taken for such a high magnitude event at a premier five star hotel in the island and forwarded their regards to the other guests affected. The organizers, however, never replied to any of these posts nor acknowledged them. This scenario has left the page with a number of negative posts and no measures have been taken to rectify this bad image. There have also been several accusations of posts being deleted and users blocked from accessing the page.
One angry guest, who felt that their comments are being censored on the organizer’s page, resorted to creating a separate page named Cantaloupe Playgrounded. The purpose of this Facebook page was to gather all those affected by the incident and create a common platform where they can share their horrific experiences. The page features posts and images of the aftermath of the stage collapse.
Overall, there does not seem to be a good impression on social media channels regarding the event. The injured parties have used social media to express their disappointment but the organizers have not been able to keep up and acknowledge the posts. This could be seen as a poor effort from the organizers, since such negative comments could destroy the reputation for the organizers’ future events and functions. They should also keep in mind that news of incidents like this easily go viral on social media channels.
Cantaloupe Playground has its own Twitter page but the tweets are automatically posted through Facebook. Therefore, there is no unique participation on this channel. The YouTube page of theirs has not been updated for two weeks.
In the past, there have been other instances of crisis management through social media, where relevant organizations addressed their customers and issued statements using social media channels. In July 2013, when Southwest Flight 345 landed nose first at LaGuardia, the airline resorted to its Facebook and Twitter pages to inform the public of the situation and keep them up to date about the latest. These posts were received warmly by the fans, supporting the airline and offering regards to those affected. The airline’s commitment to providing accurate information to the public and looking into the needs of the customers was praised by the general public, encouraging them to keep up the good work.
It is evident that one cannot underestimate the power of crisis management through social media, regardless of the type of incident. The stage collapse at Hilton Hotel could be just one incident of many more to come, and it is important that organizers and hosts strive to provide good quality service and assistance to its fans through social media in order to maintain high reputation and to safeguard the brand name. Crisis management through social media could be vital for any modern-day organization and we would be looking into it in-depth in our future posts.