Social media sites as crisis communication sites?

August 8, 2007

I’ve seen more and more suggestions in the past while about using social media site building tools (such as WordPress, the one I am using here) to build crisis websites. Here’s a new post suggesting using Facebook for that purpose.

Since we more or less pioneered the concept 7 years ago of using highly interactive webtools for crisis communication, I very much welcome the realization of what is needed to be prepared to communicate. And, on a pretty simple level WordPress, Facebook and other website building and managing tools can work pretty darn well. But, for most, not nearly well enough. There is a lot to managing the communication during a major event. It involves a high level of coordination and collaboration, it involves internal review and approvals, it involves not just a website (pull communications) but pushing information out to multiple pre-staged stakeholders groups in multiple modes including telephone and SMS messaging. And it involves a high degree of interactivity. One thing really cool about these sites is they are built on interactivity through the comment function. But using this function during a crisis exposes those coming to the crisis site for information also to the full vitriol, politicized and agenda-driven comments of many of those who come to the site. Either that, or an obvious editing process which undermines the credibility.

By all means, some kinds of companies or organizations with crisis exposure ought to look at these as a low cost partial solution. But for those who are serious, are who operate in larger, more complex organizations, the danger is greater than the reward.


2 Responses to “Social media sites as crisis communication sites?”

  1. leeaase Says:

    Good thoughts. In Facebook, for example, you can set what elements of the group options are included in your group. You could enable the discussion board (or not), or enable the Wall (or not).

    And yes, there could be vitriol, but you can either have it in a place where you can address it, or more scattered.

    Facebook isn’t a complete solution. It does offer SMS messaging, however, if you add the Facebook mobile application. And you could have one secret group for your crisis team, where interaction and collaboration can happen, and another for the general public. You could have several pre-defined groups, for that matter, with messaging being pushed out to each as needed through Facebook’s messaging function.

    I’m a big WordPress fan, too, but I don’t know of a way to do the push communications with WordPress as you can with Facebook.

    What other kinds of tools would you recommend for more complex organizations?

  2. gbaron Says:

    As I’m not a Facebook user and not as familiar as I could be the fact that it provides SMS messaging is new and very interesting.

    As for other tools, you must forgive me for suggesting the system I created that has gained some considerable currency. It was designed to simultaneously manage push, pull and interactive communication in large, dispersed organizations and communication teams. It’s is called PIER and you can find info at As it was first developed in 2000, it can reasonably claim to be an early web 2.0 application.

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