Social media like Facebook and Twitter now have a lot in common with mobile phone networks. They are accessible to millions of people and they also stay up and running even if disaster strikes an enterprise and shuts down its corporate IT system. Anything that is that “continuous” merits examination in the light of business continuity plan best practice. Indeed, some very large organisations are now leveraging the power of social networks for crisis management, although some cases of social media handling in the context of BCM fall short of best practice, and even of acceptable practice.
Recent cases of using Twitter in particular in crisis management include the UK Post Office. While suffering IT breakdown that rendered its systems unavailable, the Post Office staff used Twitter to communicate with and respond to more than 100 customers. The organisation is currently undergoing large scale IT transformation, with the implementation of the biggest SAP human resources and payroll system anywhere in Europe. Business continuity plan best practice in general will be of even greater importance now, and responsive tweeting to encourage customers to stick with the Post Office en route is part of that.
The flip side of the coin is when an organisation puts pressure on people to reveal what they do with social media, supposedly in the name of filtering out potential business threats and ensuring continuity. This has been happening with certain companies and government agencies asking job applicants to communicate their user ID and password, so that the company or agency can log in as the user and poke around. In the US this has already triggered initiatives in some states for legislation to deny public agencies the right to ask for such access. Social networking as part of business continuity plan best practice is possible, but needs to be used constructively and for the benefit of all concerned.