Social Media and Business Continuance

“We’re down and we’ll get back to you soon.” Would anyone be comfortable allowing this to be a communication coming from their business?

This past Thursday (9/23/10), Facebook was down for about 2.5 hours and called it the worst outage in four years. It was the second consecutive day of outage for Facebook. It won’t be the last time.

Have you ever read this from your favorite blog platform: “_____ is currently experiencing a network outage? We’re working on getting things back up ASAP.”

Do you know the airborne whale? If you have used Twitter for more than an afternoon, you know what I am talking about.

These are examples of platform/network outages. Add to this scenario, hijacked and hacked accounts. While the usage and dependency of social media is clearly on the rise, companies are doing a poor job of social media integration and business continuance. If you are using social media and one of your channels goes down, do you know what you need to do? Do you have a plan in place?

A number of years ago, I ran the product line for mainframe computers at a large technology company. Our “STAR” (Secure, Transaction intensive, highest Availability, Recovery) capabilities were tailored for mission critical environments (financial services, government, military, police, commerce sites, travel and air traffic control) because downtime and system outage had significant ramifications either financially or potential loss of life.

Now I am not saying that usage and dependency of social media has this potential for such a catastrophe, but business operational interruption needs to be addressed proactively. Let’s use business continuance for mission critical environments as a guide. Business continuance is defined as everything you need to do to recover from a business system interruption or even a disaster. Typically three specific areas are addressed:

1) Restoring platforms or business applications
2) Back up to offsite locations
3) Expertise in place to implement the recovery

If you are running social media implementations, you should take some cues. Understand the criticality of the social activity. Is it supporting a time sensitive event? Is it an element of your customer support environment? Is it part of an active dialog with your audience? Or simply providing valuable information to continually support your brand position? The answer here should help define your recovery time objective – days, hours, or moments.

If you know the necessity of recovery, it should indicate a direction of your plan. As an example, say you are using Facebook to promote a very near term upcoming event. Facebook goes down, or your account is hacked. How will you reach your audience? You should understand other channels your audience may or may not be using to connect with you. Use appropriate alternate channels to provide event information as well as a vehicle to provide status on the platform that is down. Secondarily, do you have a database of customer information? Have you asked your customers to opt-in for email communication and segmented communication preferences? Maybe specific individuals have not opted in for partner information or your weekly newsletter, but would opt in for information in the event of an outage.

Until such time that Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms provide a “high availability” offering and committed SLAs (service level agreements) *, companies will need to assume that these communication channels they depend on will go down and need to have contingency plans in place. I’ve preached this many times before – social media needs to be an integrated process in the rest of your business strategy and operations. Thus, add business continuance as another area to address in your social media plans. Plan ahead! Live, learn, and correct!

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

* Note: predict this will be an offering for enterprises in the near future for social platforms. A no brainer – revenue opportunity for the platforms, enterprise level of service that has been missing thus far.

4 Comments

Filed under business continuance, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

4 responses to “Social Media and Business Continuance

  1. Steve, you’ve spoken with a true business mindset on social media!

  2. Steve,
    For decades in the mainframe world and more recently in the server world, business continuance / disaster recovery has been a financial consideration. Reducing the time to get back up from a week to a day to an hour to a minute has usually involved at least another order of magnitude of cost for each jump. Some applications are worth the cost to get to an hour, most aren’t.

    Back in your STAR days, airlines had five major applications – operations, maintenance, flight crew scheduling, general finance, and frequent flyer. For a long time, operations was the most important. They literally could not push an airplane back from a gate if that system was down. I remember how surprised I was when I found out that the frequent flyer system was financially more important to the airline. Probably a very early and primitive form of social media for the airline.
    Social Media offers, in my view, two issues:
    1. I can’t control the availability, performance or security of my social media – the social media providers in the Cloud do that.
    2. I don’t know how to measure the cost of my social media being down for a minute, an hour, a day, …

    What will drive the social media providers to offer the high availability platforms that critical business components require?

    How do I determine if their SLAs are worth the price they may charge? Or if other alternatives I can control are worth the cost?

    Enjoy,
    Walt.

    • Walt –

      Really glad and honored you joined the conversation.

      You bring up some gooid points/questions.

      I am not suggesting that the objectives tied to social media activities warrant a business solution strategy equal to the environments mainframe computers support (travel and other). In fact, I think the opposite – they do not warrant the same high availability, robust redundant networks.

      BUT – there is something to be learned from business continuance. BC is an operational issue, not technical. What do you need to do to keep your business running. Yes, some technology, but also a plan and operations performed by people.

      When Facebook or Twitter or any other social media channel you are using becomes inoperative, you need to use others channels effectively. You need to understand the different ways your audience receives your information and communicates with you. Point is – you need to have alternatives planned and ready for implementation.

      It basically comes down to the fact that “$hit happens” and you need to have a plan B for when it does – not necessarily an expensive technical solution, but a work around. I don’t see many companies ready for this.

      Always a pleasure and best – Walt,
      Steve

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