Social media as a business continuity tool

Read time 2min 10sec

Social media crises are on the rise, yet 76% of them could have been avoided with proper planning and internal investment by companies.

So says David Bollaert, senior business continuity management advisor at ContinuitySA, who was speaking at ITWeb's Business Continuity 2013 Summit in Bryanston yesterday.

According to Bollaert, it's important that companies understand what a social media crisis is, as well as the value social media provides when it forms part of the company's business continuity management (BCM) processes.

"Characteristics of a social media crisis include information asymmetry and a decisive change from the norm, and it has potential material impact that could have negative results on the brand," he said.

One of the examples used by Bollaert to highlight this is car manufacturer Toyota's failure to use social media during the first days of its recall. Toyota has more than 81 000 followers.

"To put Toyota's silence in perspective, Google registered more than 22 000 recall-related blog posts in the first week after the announcement. Rather than engage their tens of thousands of self-identified brand ambassadors, who were waiting for information, it seems Toyota simply forgot they existed."

Bollaert believes the first step in handling a social media crisis is for companies to acknowledge that there is one (even if they don't have all the information), respond first on the platform where the crisis broke, and then on all other platforms. This means answering questions via Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and beyond.

Companies also need to be sympathetic and remember that it's not about winning, but about damage control.

Bollaert highlighted ways companies can maximise their social media capacity. These include embedding BCM through internal social media applications like Yammer, loading BCM actions on sites for easy access, and using YouTube to highlight exercises and simulations, amid other proactive uses.

"In a crisis, consumers need honest answers and they need them fast - and no messaging vehicle is better suited to meet this demand than those fuelling the crisis in the first place. Transparent engagements in the online communities where your customers already live provide a credible and direct channel for the answers they need."

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