“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!
* 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.