Social Media for Crisis Communications | MissionMode

Readiness Best Practices: Leveraging Social Media in a Crisis

Social media can be a powerful tool in a business continuity  management program arsenal, however, according to a PwC survey of business continuity managers, 57% of respondents are not systematically leveraging social media in their programs, and only 8% believe that social media has helped their organization better identify and respond to crisis events.

Social Media for Business Continuity Management

There are many ways business continuity managers can leverage social media in a crisis, but to be effective requires forethought and training. A2014 survey on Social Media in the Workplace revealed that 88% of businesses are using social media in some form.  Much of the focus to date has been about creating policies for appropriate employee use of social media vs. broadening how the tools can be used for crisis management.  While employee misuse of social channels is a concern, this fear has slowed the expansion of social media for legitimate business purposes.  There are many ways social media can be used to improve crisis management and overall organizational resiliency.

Proactively Identify Risks with Social Media Monitoring

Social media is the one of the most effective tools organizations have to monitor public sentiment and identify potential crises before they erupt.  A good monitoring program can signal product issues, customer service problems, management credibility concerns, potential safety hazards and more that could impact your brand.  Because many of the conversations that matter most are not happening on your own social media channels, a myriad of monitoring solutions have been developed to help companies follow conversations on news sites, blogs, forums, and other online channels in real-time.  These tools can help business continuity teams understand how conversations are trending and which need to be addressed with the greatest urgency.  From free/low cost tools such as Google Alerts and Hootsuite to fully featured SaaS platforms such as Oracle Social Cloud and Salesforce Radian6 there is a monitoring solution for every business need to help companies keep their finger on the pulse.

Crowdsourcing of Critical Information

One of the biggest challenges for business continuity teams can collecting accurate information about a crisis as it’s unfolding.  Often key decision-makers are not onsite, and, in the midst of a major disruptive event, those present are not always able to take time to keep the larger team informed.  There are many recent examples of how disaster relief systems have benefited from crowdsourced reports.  Based on texts, photos, videos and personal reports posted on social media sites, the Red Cross was able to collect $8M in relief donations for Haitian earthquake victims in just 48 hours.  Often social media channels remain intact when phone communications are no longer possible allowing real-time reports of critical information to guide response and relief efforts.  Tools are available to sort through crowdsourced material in order to spot trends and prioritize action plans.

Important Information Channel

As a crisis event unfolds, social media channels can be an organization’s most effective means of issuing updates to employees, customers and the wider public.  Both public and private social media channels can be effectively used for crisis communications.  Facebook and Twitter are the widest used public channels while private Facebook, Slack and Google groups can be created for intra-team communications.Despite the relative ease of posting information on social media, crisis communications need to me managed just as closely on these channels as any traditional media announcements.  Access to an organization’s social assets should be in the hands of trained team members and the announcements need to come from a single voice.  Unlike other media, social media channels enable two way communications.  Resources need to be in place to respond to questions and comments that arise as a result of your crisis communications.

Tips for Social Media Success

Before adding social media to your business continuity management program, it’s important to have a clear plan for how the tools can best be leveraged and by whom.  Make sure your team includes digital communication experts who can lead your social media monitoring and response.

Treat social media like a two way conversation.  The biggest complaint users have towards companies on social media is that they often don’t receive response to their comments or questions.  Posting information on social media without listening and responding to feedback is considered a major etiquette lapse.

Adopt an appropriate tone.  Posting information on social media is different than issuing a press release.  You need to adopt an empathetic tone and take responsibility for your organizations’ actions.  Each social media channel has its own language and culture.  The more you understand and adapt your messaging to the appropriate channel, the better your information will be better received.

The Benefits Outweigh the Risks

Many organizations have been hesitant to add a systematic social media component to their business continuity programs.  While social media requires a skill set that not all BCM program leads possess, the tools have so much value for crisis management that they can no longer be ignored.  Partner with your organization’s communication team or external social media experts make sure you have the listening and response mechanisms in place to leverage social media to improve your crisis management.