In the last decade, social media has grown in popularity and more importance than most companies risk management capabilities can handle. Between 2012 to 2013, the number of social network users around the world rose from 1.47 billion to 1.73 billion, an 18 per cent increase.
More than 72 per cent of all Internet users regularly access social networking sites and, in the UK and US alone; people spend respectively 13 and 16 minutes every hour using social media.
More importantly is the take-up of social media by businesses around the world. Among Fortune 500 firms, 77 per cent now have active Twitter accounts; 70 per cent have Facebook’s pages, and 69 per cent have YouTube accounts.
In the last decade, social media played one of the most significant impacts on the development of crisis management. The ability of social media to connect people around the globe instantly is something that we are coming to terms with, but from a risk manager’s point of view, it is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools that they have for gathering, assessing, managing and controlling information.
The role of social media in risk and crisis management.
In the context of risk and crisis management, social media can be used in three different ways.
Firstly, to broadcast information from the organization leadership to relevant stakeholders. For instance, in case of a significant event, via social media, the organization’s leadership can push information that will reach the appropriate and affected stakeholders and point them towards a company website with more comprehensive information.
Secondly, it can be used as an intelligence-gathering tool, using its network worldwide to supply information for political and economic situations in specific countries if in possession of assets, how they may be affected by natural disasters and understanding the impact and what damage has been, and what recovery actions need to be taken.
The third use of social media, in a risk and crisis-management context, is for social monitoring. This monitoring can allow the organization to identify and engage with both supporters and critics long before any crisis. Those social media discussions, especially with critics, will accelerate rapidly as a crisis progresses.
However, regardless of how powerful social media can be as a tool in risk and crisis management, an organization can understand how it can be used to an advantage and what impacts it could have on their business objectives. The design and use of social media strategies are one of the areas of security and risk management that requires a comprehensive understanding to be fully productive when a crisis develops. To be used to its full capacity, social media needs to be integrated into the organization strategic framework, so when a crisis develops everyone is fully conversant with social media company policies and able to use it under the pressure of a developing crisis.
It is vital that social media is embedded in the organization strategic objectives and maintained and developed accordingly. Social media influence needs to be built over time so that the targeted audience can rely on the information provided by that organization’s social media channels. It is only then that social media can play an active role in an organization in a time of crisis.
The Red Cross and Social Media. Example of successful social media strategy.
The expanding use of social media platforms as routine communication by the population was not recognized as an operational tool by Red Cross before Hurricane Katrina. After revaluation of the event, the Red Cross understood that social media had a crucial role during the disaster and after that for the population exchanging information and their view on humanitarian organizations and their function. Red Cross was facing some criticism in the webspace, but they were unable to respond as they did not have any presence on social media platforms.
Red Cross understood that social media platforms are permitting two-way interaction, and they can respond to any criticism and correct any misinformation spread about them in the webspace, especially if that might put the members of the public in danger affected by the disaster.
After the disaster and stock-take from all the following events Red Cross decided to employ a social media expert to monitor anything in the webspace regarding the organization, her name was Wendy Harman. Wendy’s main priority is to analyze the online conversations about Red Cross. As a result of this monitoring, many negative comments were exposed, but the process discovered many positive too. After those findings, Red Cross had a new objective to involve the members of the public online by engaging with them.
Wendy had a responsibility not only to monitor but to respond to any comments and taking the time to introduce herself. The purpose of those interactions and the personal approach was for Wendy to develop a relationship with the members of the public. Once this relationship is established if they have an issue with or criticism of the Red Cross, Wendy would work with her colleagues to acknowledge the problem and if possible, to deal with it.
What the American Red Cross learned was that social media was vital to ensure that their relationship with the people they are supporting is a positive one. This new communication tool gives the Red Cross the capacity to engage directly with the members of the public in two-way interaction. The capability to have access to their blogs and other social media websites is especially crucial for the Red Cross when working on disasters.
Their social media initiative has exceeded the initial expectations. All discussions are monitored and tracked, and the Red Cross has established its voice online but also has paced itself at the hub through proactive social media campaigns and initiatives. The organization’s social media program has allowed the Red Cross to reply to misconceptions when they occur.
The social media awareness strategy, consists of a variety of communication and collaboration techniques, resulting in new levels of success with its stakeholders. By accepting a policy of engaging with interested and engaged influencers, organizations can maximize the public relations value with new social media tools.
However, social media can be a double-edged sword. A clear example is Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, when he tweeted about taking the company private, leading to a clear example of a crisis. While this tweet had no potential to cause any damage on its own, due to the hypercomplex nature of the business world, the perception of this single tweet led to the removal of Elon Musk as chairman of the board and a multimillion-dollar fine, as this was a critical element that can influence shareholder’s decision-making process.
Effective crisis management inevitably involves social media, whether the organizations are a large multi-national corporation or a small hometown business. When a crisis develops, whether it’s negative publicity, a product recall, or an inaccurate news story going viral, social media engagement should be seen as a key priority to counteract the crisis. The nature of social media makes it an ideal platform for communicating quickly and effectively in our digital age. Communication on social media is near-instantaneous, so it gets the organizational message out right away, much faster and more effective than traditional media outputs.
Crisis Management and Social Media
By: Radoslav Savkov
A freelance Personal Protection Specialist & Security and Business Consultant with over 17 years’ experience of serving international clients. Providing discreet and professional security services to many high-profile individuals, including Royalty, Governmental, Corporate, High Net Worth, and Celebrity clients. A member of the Security Institute UK; American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) and The Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM), with a strong commitment to ongoing training and professional development.