Social media not ready for crisis management

Few companies include social media in business continuity plans with most citing security as main concern, according to BCP professionals.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

While popular among users as a platform to transmit information far and quick, social media is not as readily accepted and integrated into organizations' business continuity planning (BCP) due to security concerns, according to the Business Continuity Institute (BCI).

In an e-mail interview, Lyndon Bird, international and technical director at BCI, shared some early results of an ongoing survey of business continuity management and crisis management professionals.

The preliminary findings saw few respondents using social media as part of their crisis communications strategy. Only 17 percent of respondents were considering the inclusion of social media in their BCP, added Bird.

According to the survey, he added, security proved to be the main hurdle for companies.

Their concerns are not unfounded.

A spokesperson for DRI International (Disaster Recovery Institute International) told ZDNet Asia that security within social networking sites has not reached the level needed to protect data as well as the reputation of enterprises.

The openness and accessibility of social media may be at odds with corporations' Internet security controls, he noted. "In recent months, some social networks have been exposed to a variety of threats and attacks that range from nuisance level to full-blown identity theft, hacking and phishing."

He also noted that it is still too early to see where social media fits into corporate best practices, but added that the DRI does sees "potential value" in such tools.

Blogs, for instance, may be the "most pertinent way" when monitored properly for business continuity professionals to broadcast information to the broadest audience possible, the DRI spokesperson said.

"When hosted internally, blogs allow for scrutiny and protection of outbound information sufficiently to meet most corporate communication standards," he said.

Blogs lack the capability to directly push notification but when linked to a traditional notification system, they can provide a "strategic tool" that can drive a large amount of information to stakeholders, he explained.

When choosing a social media tool as part of business continuity plan, DRI noted that organizations should keep be mindful of the following issues:

1. Use one-way, high level content to broadcast information on company status, activation plans and employees' "next steps".
2. Use only blogs that have been vetted by the corporate communications department.
3. Never post company-specific content such as hotline numbers.

While social networks may not meet the level of security required by organizations, they do have their advantages. BCI's Bird said external social networks were less vulnerable to organizations' internal disruption as they are located outside the corporate firewall.

However, he noted that social media should be used as a tool to engage stakeholders rather than only as part of the company's BCP strategy. This will ensure stakeholders are familiar with the media and therefore, are more prepared to readily access the platform in the event of a crisis.

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