Online Communities in a Crisis
Vanessa Dimauro of Leader Networks wrote recently about why communities help companies in uncertain times. With reference to the current financial markets crisis she says “Now’s the time for those organizations to use their social media tools,” and gives some suggestions for using online communities for crisis management.
Internal online communities can provide a much needed less formal yet officially sanctioned channel for information flow. In a global organization, even when management does a very good job of publishing news of current developments, employees want confirmation, as rapidly as possible, from one another about what they perceive or fear, about what their clients are asking and doing.
In a crisis, consistency of message is critical and senior management can establish the message and set a tone but front line employees must adapt that message for their clients in their regions. Opening a forum to collect and share these adaptations can accelerate the sharing of solutions and provide an early-warning system for problems. (In this situation a forum moderator becomes even more important since in the midst of a crisis people are focused of dealing with the problem rather than documenting how they dealt with it.)
By providing an opportunity for sharing information which is not tightly controlled by the corporate communications department, the company supports employees and has a better chance of learning about their concerns, the problems they are facing and what they are doing about it.