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Planning for social media crises

By Garry Poole, FBCI

Social media crises can occur for many reasons due to postings about organizations amplifying out of control and threatening reputation damage and loss of customers.

Additionally, during other worst case scenarios, such as terrorism or major disasters, social media can greatly amplify the intensity and scale of responses to the incident and, if not managed effectively, a social media crisis could develop alongside the physical incident.

However, resilience is often designed into organizations for worst case scenarios by focusing on business continuity plans that scale down total business activity for the recovery of critical activities within maximum tolerable period of disruptions. This scaling down could impact on social media incident management unless such activities are included in the business continuity plans.

Whatever the potential cause of a social media crisis, social media teams need to be prepared to scale up their operations to handle the social media incident. Business continuity and resilience practitioners may therefore have to enhance their existing assessment and design approaches to take account of the amplification effect posed by social media.

I suggest that business continuity managers consider the following steps:

1)     Make sure you understand social media terminology, activities and operations;
2)     Align social media operations to your business continuity / resilience programme. This will require, firstly, that you have effectively running social media operations steering teams and for these to have business continuity / resilience representation. Then address the following:

  • Align social media activities to business impact analysis (BIA) by considering social media activities (processes) and interdependencies internally (e.g. complaints departments) and externally (e.g. suppliers). Determine maximum tolerable periods of disruption and/or acceptable thresholds if postings start amplifying out of control.
  • Align social media activities to risk assessment by assessing the types of adverse postings that could start to spike out of control towards a social media crisis (worst case scenarios) and the social media activities involved.
  • Align social media activities to recovery strategies by designing and implementing worst case scenario sections in social media playbooks based on the above described analysis and assessment.
  • Align social media activities to exercising and testing by rehearsing the worst case scenario sections of social media playbooks with social media operations and within the business continuity / resilience exercise and testing programme.
  • Align to training and awareness by implementing a training and awareness schedule to align social media competencies to the business continuity / resilience programme.

Why not assess your current alignment against the above steps? Where there are gaps, your social media team can work on them with you to help your organization become resilient to social media crises. 

The author

Garry Poole, BA Combined Hons, FBCI is Principal Consultant, Business Design, PA Consulting. Contact: garry.poole@paconsulting.com



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