Disaster Recovery Planning and the Role of Social Media

By | Dec 18, 2012

A survey of 100 businesses in the United Kingdom showed that about two-thirds of those surveyed said that they did not include the use of social media in their business disaster recovery plans. According to an article in PR Week UK, the survey covered communications, marketing, and social media professionals. The results were particularly interesting considering that the respondents used social media in their public relations capacity, yet the majority either didn't know how best to use social media in times of crisis, or did not have a formal plan in place for using it.

The use of social media in crisis management is a recent phenomenon. Sean Cassidy, President of DKC Public Relations, Marketing, and Government Affairs, described his experience with social media during two hurricane events in the past two years in an opinion piece that appeared in PR Week US. In the article, he described the contrast between how information was disseminated during the New York blackout of 1977, and how social media was used during the events of Hurricane Irene two years ago and then during and after Hurricane Sandy. Regarding Hurricane Irene he stated, "The constant tweets created a sense that someone was in charge." Hurricane Sandy saw even more use of social media, which Cassidy described as having produced "a sentiment of singular accountability."

Most midsize businesses have a disaster recovery plan, but the plan may have been developed and written some time ago, before social media was a large player in how businesses communicate. The takeaway for midsize businesses and their IT shops is that social media has a part to play in recovery planning, and that it may be time to revisit their crisis management plans. What IT needs to consider and weigh is how social media might be accessed in times of crisis, and what critical infrastructure ought to be in place to secure reliable access. In PR Week US, Cassidy noted that he and others in New York were able to experience reliable connectivity by using mobile telecommunications infrastructure.

This is not to suggest that social media need take the place of more traditional communications in a crisis management and recovery plan; rather, it is an acknowledgment of the obvious utility of the platform. Midsize business has multiple ways to communicate, and all of these communication channels need to be explored when planning for disaster. Social media may play a larger than expected role in disaster recovery, and its role deserves a closer inspection.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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