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Your business continuity communication plan should include impact of social media

Social media mistakes can bring down an organization as easily as a technical disruption can. It's important to analyze user activity and include it in a business continuity plan.

From a business continuity perspective, social media has been used to provide a reasonably accessible and dependable...

path of communication during an emergency. Considering the proliferation and use of smart mobile devices, it's fairly easy for an organization to communicate quickly to employees, stakeholders and others in an emergency.

However, in the past year, we have seen the emergence of fake news and an increased concern that social media has become a vehicle for promoting negative social values, such as discrimination and cyberbullying.

Clearly, information as we know it is changing. As such, organizations need to revisit their business continuity communication plan and how they use and manage social media with regard to corporate resilience.

Remembering that business continuity is about reputation, social media -- when improperly used -- can potentially damage an organization's reputation faster than a technology disruption. And since the use of social media now occurs at the highest levels in the federal government, negative messages on sites such as Twitter can kill an organization's reputation literally overnight.

Here are a few questions to ask regarding your business continuity communication plan:

  • Do you have a social media policy?
  • When did your organization last review its social media policy?
  • Do you have the resources to analyze social media activity?
  • When was the last time you analyzed social media activity in your organization?
  • How do you enforce your social media policy?
  • How effective are your enforcement methods?

Since carrying one's smartphone everywhere is typical for many people today, the process of monitoring social media activity is not very difficult. Simply observing employees at lunch or in a meeting or other social setting can provide an initial assessment. Monitoring traffic on a smartphone can be more difficult, unless the right diagnostic tools and technical skills are available.

Risk analysis key to business communication plans

More important to a business continuity communication plan is the concern that employees may accidentally or intentionally send out a message that has negative consequences for the organization. Another concern is that employee productivity may be compromised through excessive smartphone use. Both of these concerns can create new crises that could be more serious than the more familiar technology failure.

Does your business continuity plan account for such incidents? Perhaps it's time to conduct a risk analysis and business impact analysis (BIA) that focuses on social media.

Organizations need to revisit their business communication plan and how they use and manage social media with regard to corporate resilience.

This business continuity communication plan update should focus on identifying risks, threats and vulnerabilities created through social media. It may expose administrative, operational and technical vulnerabilities that could increase the likelihood of a crisis occurring. For example, an organization may have a social media policy, but neither follows it, nor enforces it. Employees in a factory or assembly line setting could be prone to texting when things are slow, resulting in a critical production error.

A follow-on BIA focusing on the impact of social media may also uncover situations where a vulnerability translates into a potentially reputation-killing event. Disgruntled employees texting negative messages may cause an organization to face lawsuits and negative publicity if those messages are distributed to a wider audience. This particular BIA still identifies situations and their operational, financial, competitive and reputational impacts, but the source of those situations is unique.

Business continuity plans should include the impact of social media and its negative consequences. The response to a social media-created incident may be different, but the outcomes can still be devastating to the organization. A business continuity communication plan suitably updated to include social media events, coupled with a strong social media policy and active enforcement, can help reduce the damage from irresponsible social media activities.

Clearly, social media has its many good points, and its extensive use underscores those values. However, when used improperly or irresponsibly, social media can be just as damaging to an organization as a fire or flood, often with similar outcomes. Embracing social media when planning, deploying and maintaining business continuity plans (and disaster recovery plans, too) can help keep organizations running smoothly.

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