C-level executives and managers from B2B companies will ask me about their ROI on social marketing and how they can use social media as part of their overall marketing and sales strategy. The truth is social media should be less about consumer interaction for these companies and more about utilizing for internal communication, especially during a crisis situation. For example, a recent Mashable article emphasized the adoption of Google+ as enterprise business software versus just a social network. The article identified project collaboration opportunities in certain features such as Circles as well as hosting division meetings in features like Hangouts. While the idea of using a public social networking forum to conduct business matters may seem absurd to some people, companies should take into account a couple of factors. First, employees are prone to spending more time on social networking sites versus email or phone calls. Employees are fairly proficient in understanding social media and will be prone to adopting these tools versus complicated hardware. Secondly, companies need to think of social networks as cloud-based software that can help streamline internal communication and ultimately save a company time and money to implement.
So, how can social networks be used for crisis management?
Gone are the days of operating in a vacuum. Emergency communications now involve the highly interactive, high-speed world of social media. Reasons to incorporate and monitor social media include:
Effective communication: Attention needs to be given to social media communication at all phases of the disaster, crisis or emergency. It’s a dynamic, two-way street and the only way you’ll know if you are being heard is by monitoring. You can then respond in a timely and meaningful way.
Awareness of what is being said about your response to an incident.
Enhanced situational awareness, and the ability to keep in contact with staff, suppliers, clients and community activities during an incident or disaster.
The ability to dispel rumors and misinformation.
In Japan, for example, after the massive 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami, Tokyo’s transportation network and communication systems were paralyzed because of the constant network congestion. With the phone lines down for almost 24 hours, people utilized the internet to communicate with others and collect information. The internet and social networks became the platforms to retrieve information about disaster struck areas, nuclear power stations, as well as information to support those suffering and to direct donations.
Once a social media monitoring strategy is developed, it should be incorporated into semi-regular tests or exercises to ensure employees know what to expect and what to do. Additionally, mobile devices are often the easiest way to access social media during a crisis — plan how to best utilize them.