Last evening, my colleague Breana and I were guest facilitators at a Kean University social media class; our topic was using social media to engage employees.
Since the previous two classes had been cancelled because of the storm’s aftermath, we decided to start the session with two warm-up questions:
The response to the first question was not surprising: Social media (and its cousin, text-messaging) was essential to communicating during the storm. Students posted “I’m okay” to their friends and family on Facebook. They relied on Twitter feeds (like the excellent effort by NJ power company PSEG) to get information. They searched photos on Tumblr to find out what areas suffered damage. They texted, texted and texted some more.
How about company social media? Also not surprising: Not so good. Here was a typical story: One student works for a small office of a large company. Her office lost power for nearly two weeks, so she had to move to another office. But email was down, so she and her colleagues used external social media (like Facebook) to communicate with each other. The company, on the other hand, did not have a strong social media or texting strategy, so “official” information was scanty and productivity suffered.
So, here’s my message to CEOs and other senior managers who still think employee social media is a frivolous, productivity-sucking fad: Ask your East Coast employees how integral social media was through Sandy and its aftermath. And ask yourself how much the next natural disaster will cost your company unless you have a robust social media program in place.