What do people in your organisation do when there’s news of bush fires approaching or impending floods? Batten down the hatches, check the emergency generators, and perhaps get connected to a social network like Facebook or Twitter? Social networks can sometimes provide a vital connection when other means of communication fail. Available over mobile devices such as tablet PCs and smartphones, they can provide information of the same quality as that of other channels, and often more quickly. So how can organisational leaders make best use of this capability when business continuity needs to be ensured?
Firstly, there is the simple fact of being communicating. It’s the psychological comfort that the mere existence of communication brings to people, and of knowing that they are not alone. If you’ve already met Maslow’s model of a pyramid of needs that starts with the most basic ones (food, water, warmth), then in a business disruption situation, communication that simply demonstrates that there are other people out is at the same level. People get hungry for communication when things are not running the way they expected: for example, when planes are delayed, trains break down, or factories fail to open for workers.
Next, just work your way up the pyramid of needs. After ‘food and warmth’ (communications and situational information), the next level up is security. People want to know that efforts are being made to maintain continuity, repair problems and recover normal levels of safety. Facebook page messages or Tweets on Twitter need to give information that confirms this. The following levels are belonging, esteem and self-actualisation (in that order, and according to the model), which represent opportunities to use social networks to get people to come together as a team, and to actively contribute to keeping the organisation going.