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Incorporating Social Media Into Crisis Management Plans

May 2, 2009

As technology continues to evolve so does the way we communicate. No longer are people reliant on reading the news in the daily paper, but instead they are only a click away from multiple news outlets on the Internet. Not only has the way we learn about the news changed, but more people are interacting with each other through social media and email than other traditional methods. People have come to expect immediacy and crisis management should be no exception.

Social media has allowed conversations to multiple exponentially and it is important that a company has a plan to interact with consumers during a crisis. Online conversations are going to happen whether a company is present, and it is better to be engaged in the conversation than simply stand by. While incorporating social media into a crisis plan there should be multiple people assigned to monitoring online conversations, and designated people to respond to posts. Social media is all about timeliness and it is better to plan who will manage what prior to an emergency.

Lotame is a company that offers social media solution services to companies. The following is a case of how Lotame implemented their services for a client during a crisis. In January of 2009 the Minnesota Department of Health reported cases of salmonella in peanut butter. After the recall was released the peanut butter industry saw a 24% drop in sales. In response to the recall a major food product organization used social media as an attempt to educate its customers. The plan involved reaching out to customers who had voiced their concerns of the issue through blogs, facebook, twitter, and forums. The company was able to reach out and educate customers that their brand of peanut butter was not affected by the recall. By interacting with their customers through social media the company was able to rebuild its reputation.

More recently, the spread of Swine Flu throughout the world has exploded throughout social media. Throughout the first week of its spread through the United States Mashable reported that there were over 10,000 posts an hour on Twitter related to the virus. In situations like this it is important for a company to respond to a crisis where the conversation is happening. In this case it was critical to use social media to start and weed out misinformation. There were a number of key accounts on Twitter then became prominent during the spread for credible information. Some of the most followed tweeters on the subject were @CDCemergency with over 80,000 followers, the Center for Disease Control Emergency twitter account that updated the current state and precautions. @Healthmap posted on the number of confirmed cases in different states. @sanjayguptaccnn CNN Chief Medical Correspondent was also one of the top followed with over 20,000 people. The doctor reported to his followers on the current state from the epicenter in Mexico. 

By incorporating social media into a crisis management plan you can then reach out to key stakeholders in a more immediate fashion than through news coverage. It is not that press releases, and conferences are no longer necessary, but that social media is a new aspect that allows companies to relate accurate information in a timelier manner.

-Anna Osgoodby

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