Monday, May 4, 2009

UPDATE to Social Media as a Disaster Preparedness Tool

(Photos © 2008 by Britney Jackson)

A few weeks ago, I suggested in a post, “Communicating After a Disaster,” that tools like Twitter could be useful to keep your employees up to date in the wake of a disaster that significantly disrupts normal communication. Twitter has become ubiquitous, but its temporary service outages have also grown more frequent.

Since that article, I have tested an alternative but very similar tool, “Yammer.” Yammer is like the private counterpart to the very public Twitter. Sign-up for Yammer using your work email address (the one with your organization’s private domain name, not something like gmail or msn), and you will instantly have a “private” group. Only those who validate an active email account in the same domain name (the part after the @ sign) are allowed to join your group.

A useful feature on Yammer is the ability to set up organizational charts and decide who in your organization you want to “follow” if not everyone. Another useful option is that you can determine which updates you receive by SMS (text messages) versus email. And Yammer has a nice mobile app for the Blackberry, iPhone and desktop to make monitoring and updating easy from any of the three.

Under the Disaster Preparedness theme I used earlier, here is one way you can use a tool like Yammer should your organization lose some or all of it’s communication system (i.e., email server, network, etc.):

1) Set up a Yammer system IN ADVANCE, including whether or not responses to updates are allowed or it is just a one-way message system
2) Write specific details of the system, including rules on what kinds of messages are acceptable and unacceptable (yes, you need to remind people to not divulge private details and company secrets)
3) Invite all employees to subscribe and install appropriate alternative applications on their mobile phones to the extent available BEFORE DISASTER STRIKES
4) Conduct tests of your Emergency Alternative Communications System at least once per quarter

Whether your business or office is more likely to face blizzard, fire, tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake, or some outbreak of disease that makes effective communication with a large number of people more difficult, social media tools may play an important role in your disaster preparedness plans. For more on creating a disaster preparedness plan, check out

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