Twitter and social media for disaster recovery communication

One of the major projects I have been working on for the last few months is a business continuity / disaster recovery plan.  Now that most of the technical details were out of the way and tested, thanks in large part to (insert plug) nScaled it was time to work on the communication and escalation procedures.  One problem, Hurricane Sandy showed up before they were done.  Since I had already been giving this a great deal of though, I decided to try Twitter as our primary means of communications during the storm since we were going to shut down all our servers to avoid data corruption (no generator and limited UPS run time).  I do not work for a technology company – so the majority of our company is mostly what many would consider non-technical users (compared to a team of developers, customer support, QA people etc…) so I was a bit worried about adoption of using social media as a means to share important information about the status of the systems and plans to shut down and restart them.   After a bit of debating between myself and my other self I went for it and setup a Twitter account (first person that finds the account wins a… hmm I have nothing good … signed piece of paper from me?) and updated the account diligently before, during and just after the storm when all systems were brought back online.

Once the dust settled my curiosity got the better of me so I created a survey via and sent it out to all our employees – the results:  shocking!  Within just a few hours about 1/3 of our users responded to the survey (50 to be exact).  Of those 50 only 4 did not know we had the Twitter account setup (it was announced late on Friday afternoon).  Of those 46 employees,  39 said “the information was timely and relevant and kept me informed even though we did not have email” (84% for those who like percentages) versus 7 who said “No, the information did not help me.”  Not a bad adoption rate for something announced late on a Friday afternoon and put into use on Monday morning.

I had a section for open ended comments at the end, and asked anyone who said the information was not useful to please give examples of what they expected.  Some of those comments included:

  • “More frequent updates would have been nice, even if just to say nothing has changed” and “I think I was expecting perhaps a few more progress reports than I saw. Good communication tool however” – fair enough, I did get a little lazy with it around 8P EST.
  • “I do not use Twitter and had no intention of signing up for it. Following the news reports gave me just as much information”, “I don’t have a Twitter account and I don’t know if I can see the information without one” and “I don’t have twitter so it was no help to me” – these are on me, I didn’t do a good enough job explaining how it could be used (i.e. you don’t have to sign up for an account to use it).

And that was it for the negative comments, some of the positives:

  • “A great tool! Thank you!”
  • “Loved the use of twitter!”
  • “I really appreciated the twitter account, and I think it was very helpful.”
  • “Great idea and greatly appreciated”
  • “Not only did I use the account to get all of the facts of where we stand, I turned on notifications after following the account to get the tweets in real time! Love it!”
  • great way to get the information – thanks!”

Why is this shocking (to me)?  This is not a “social” company the way Jive or SocialCast would have you think of it.  We are very traditional – send email, having meetings, send spreadsheets to track project deliverables etc. so this was very much outside of the comfort zone for how most of our employees are used to working and communicating with each other.  So while your mileage may vary I would highly suggest leveraging social media tools as a means of communication in your disaster recovery plans.

Do you use social media for this type of communication?  What are your plans and what do you think about using social media for disaster recovery related communications?


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