The rise in social media usage in critical situations or during political crises over the last few months must surely mark a sea change in the acceptance of this ‘novelty’. Not just for consumers, or businesses, but also for governments, ambassadors, NGOs, and high level corporates.

Social media has become crucial media. The number of examples of usage during the ongoing Japanese tragedy are almost infinite, and far too many to list here. However, the reality is that whoever you are, social media can help you out, particularly in times of crisis.

Even SMEs and consumers can suffer a crisis situation, whether that is breaking down on a dark country road, or having to recall a product. On a far larger scale, the need for crisis management is generally drilled into most executives and managers, and certainly into government departments and so on.

Social media offers advantages that many other routes cannot. For instance, even a hastily crafted press release can take time to reach news outlets; however good your journalist database and contacts are, they still need to get past editorial controls. Yet a tweet can begin to circulate in the time it takes to type 140 characters.

Even if you have never used Twitter before and do not have a large following, choosing the right hashtags can mean your message hits a global audience in seconds. For instance, #japan, #fukushima #quake etc all meant that you could reach people monitoring the situation worldwide.

So, social media allows easy communication.

However, there are still hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of businesses who cannot see the benefits of social media. People seem to have the mistaken belief that social media is simply to share what you had for breakfast or post photos of weekend pranks. The situations in Egypt, Libya, Japan and so on must surely have proven that belief to be wrong now?

In non-crisis situations, communicating with marketing messages has always been left to the marcomms team, or PR, or, recently, your search marketing agency. Marketing is crucial for all businesses; yet, ignoring a key communications channel for those messages, viz social media, seems still to be commonplace.

Do you suffer a reticence within your business to adopt social media strategies? Who is the barrier to adoption? Or is it the company culture? Let us know and we will endeavour to help you find effective solutions for social media usage that will undoubtedly bring you benefits you are currently missing.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology