THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT

I have received a number of inquiries recently on the use of Social Media in Crisis Management and Crisis Communications.

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Social media is becoming increasingly popular, and for teenagers has virtually supplanted the use of email. There are, however, very real risks and limitations on the use of social media in the context of Crisis Management.

Here are my thoughts:

Monitor: You should absolutely monitor what is being said about your organization on Twitter, Facebook etc when you are faced with a crisis, incident, etc that goes public. Many news organizations now monitor Twitter and Facebook etc searching for stories, so you should be on there too. Ideally, this would be done by the PR/communications members of your crisis teams. Hopefully they are doing this already on a day to day basis, and perhaps posting information about your company during normal day to day operations. In a crisis they should be prepared to try and counter/correct misinformation on your company on the social networks. But remember, this type of communications can easily “Go viral”. My advice: outbound communications on these channels is risky and should be handled by trained PR/ Communications people

Accuracy: Remember that the openness of these media and the anonymity of users raises real concerns about the accuracy of the data on them. Professionals following Facebook and Twitter are following trends rather than individual posts. See the excellent article in the February 2011 edition of Security Management for more information, at www.securitymanagement.com

Authenticity: Be aware that some of the people posting misinformation about your company may be employees, contractors, etc. Review your policies on this, and make sure employees know certain types of activity on the web/social media are grounds for dismissal. Try to be as clear as possible in your policy, it will help you in the event you must take disciplinary action.

Security: There is a lot of talk about the vulnerability of these sites to hackers. Many large organizations are not using these channels for outgoing communications in a crisis because of the fear of misappropriation of messages, or the possibility of hackers breaking in to a Twitter or Facebook account and posting misinformation. Know how to shut your company accounts down before a crisis occurs so you can do it quickly.

Notification: I think there is a role here for notification, however, in a limited way. One can envision a scenario where you would “Tweet” team members and direct them to a secure messaging system for information- thus driving your legitimate crisis team members to a communication channel where they can be authenticated, and then providing them the info on the authenticated channel. One example of this would be a “Tweet” directing Crisis team members to the Forum in Crisis Commander- where they could access a secure blog on the incident. Your initial “tweet” should not contain a lot of details, just instructions to login to a secure channel.

This topic is going to remain open and hot for some time- follow up here for more information, and please post replies to this news page if you have questions or comments, or like/ dislike what you read her

Culled: Crisis Commander USA

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