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    Using Social Media As a Communication Tool During Disaster Recovery

    Stakeholders come in two forms; internal and external. They are your organization’s vendors, suppliers, customers/clients, contractors, and employees. Each stakeholder has a genuine interest in ensuring the success of the organization and by knowing and understanding that fact, the organization then not only has a duty but a responsibility to deliver the necessary information to every stakeholder no matter what level of interest they have in the company.

    When it comes to implementing a disaster recovery/business continuity plan the organization will have to choose a venue or two by which it will communicate to its stakeholders. The telephone is certainly not the “go-to” venue anymore. The last thing anybody wants to do is to be answering the phone in the middle of a hurricane or repeating the same information a hundred or more times a day. Having the right tools at your disposal to communicate to everyone will not only help keep you sane during the middle of a hurricane but it will empower all your stakeholders in that they will know what’s going on. Therefore, with the growth of social media tools the ability to communicate and empower your stakeholders has never been better than it is now.

    Deciding which tools to use may be one of the more difficult tasks that you or your organization may encounter when building a disaster recovery/business continuity plan. There are plenty of tools out there and you might find the right one on your first attempt or you can continue to look for just the right one and find it after numerous attempts. There is no need to worry as there are plenty of old and new tools for you to pick and choose from.

    By far some of the oldest and maybe not so convenient ways of communicating with stakeholders before, during, or after a natural or man-made disaster is using e-mail, text messaging, and updating a website. Each is effective in its own way, but may be a little too time consuming when all an organization has is minutes or seconds.

    E-mail gives the user the ability to broadcast plenty of information and attachments over a short period of time. A concern however, is that of e-mail limits. Limits such as those that are imposed, by the email software or administrator, to either prevent spamming others or sending over sized files that can bog down systems that are ideally designed for small payloads, such as simple e-mail messages.

    Text messaging gives a user the ability to communicate “on the go” with short simple messages. Communicating via text messaging can be very time consuming as the broadcasting ability may be limited. This in most cases means, the user will have to send individual messages to all stakeholders, to keep everyone informed. However, the user might be too thrilled to pay those overage fees an extended disaster recovery process might bring.

    Updating a web site may be effective and relatively easy when it comes to disseminating plenty of information to a lot of people very quickly, once posted. However, the issue of having the time available in order to properly format, connect, upload, and verify an updated web page might not be a possible reality once a hurricane or severe weather event strikes.

    Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and blogs while web based are also by far the easiest and convenient ways to communicate with all stakeholders their accessibility from almost any PC makes them an invaluable tool. Additionally, with any web based smart phone information can be updated from almost anywhere, in almost any situation, and at almost any time.

    Short for web logs, Blogs have been around for quite a while and are now very easy to setup, format (or not format at all), and use. By logging in the user can update the current situation or accompany that status update with a photograph or two, all within a matter of seconds.

    Using the MySpace service also allows for quick and easy updating. Interface applications can be found for the most popular web enabled phones such as the iPhone or Palm Treo phones. Much like a blog, the user can update current situation and even solicit immediate feedback from those that are following the user. Non-followers will only get access to the updates, provided that the account is set to protected.

    While relatively easy and quick to set up Facebook does come at a price. While it is a free service, the price comes in that stakeholders that wish to be notified by the organization will have to be “friends” with the organization prior to the launch of any disaster recovery/business continuity plan. This is not advisable, especially when the Facebook user is in the middle of a hurricane as it is not the best time to be “friend”-ing people in order for them to get the word out. While a very effective tool it is one that needs a lot of work to be done up front and throughout the process.

    Twitter is the newest tool in the shed. It offers any user the ability to communicate to the world 140 characters at a time. Much like MySpace and Facebook, people can follow you and you can follow them but it is not necessary in order to share information. Only 140 characters for use, the service offers the ability to post links by which stakeholders can view images, download documents, or read more detailed information about the situation of the organization. Like the other services, Twitter is easily accessible via any Internet connected PC or web enabled Smartphone.

    No matter which tool or tools you or your organization decides to use the positives will outweigh the negatives. Knowing when your doors will be open for business or when an operator will be standing by is a surefire way to keep your customers happy. It will also keep your suppliers happy because they will know when and where they can start delivering product to your location. Above all, employees will know when it is time to report to work. Therefore, when building the Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity plan keeping the conversation between you and your stakeholders open will certainly go a long way towards everyone returning to normalcy as soon as possible.

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