Don’t Rely On Social Media to Communicate in a Crisis

Posted: 27 Oct, 2021.

Crisis events come in all shapes and sizes, and will have varying degrees of impact on businesses and their workforces. In some cases, the effect of a crisis will be localised, while in others it will affect an entire organisation. The outbreak of an infectious disease like COVID-19, for example, could create risks for all employees, while the impact of a weather-event or terror-attack might endanger people within a certain geographical region. Whatever the scale or severity of the event, one thing remains consistent: it is an employer’s duty of care to safeguard its affected employees.

Communicating quickly and clearly during a crisis

After any crisis event, it’s crucial for employers to alert, protect and reassure their employees with fast, accurate information. By its very nature, a crisis is likely to be unique, complex and fast moving, so the methods employers use to notify staff need to be chosen carefully. Effective crisis communication boils down to saying the right things to the right people at the right time.

A lot of organisations rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter for their crisis messaging. Social media allows for instant dissemination of information to pre-existing groups in a way that can be warm, reassuring and informal – allowing an organisation to shape the narrative around any event and provide defined audiences with regular updates. Unfortunately, social media is often not fit for purpose when it comes to delivering crisis communications to staff that could be at risk.

The risks of social media in an emergency

There are a number of risks involved in using social media in times of crisis, including:  

Platform downtime

A key risk with any social media platform is the risk of the platform going down, or of network failure. Recently, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down for six hours in a major outage that affected billions of users around the globe. In an emergency situation, when it’s critical that your staff receive your communications in a timely manner to ensure they can react accordingly, platform or network downtime could mean that your staff members fail to receive your messages until hours after you send them out. This could expose your team to health and safety risks until they receive your message, leaving you liable for anything that happens during this time.

Missed messages

When you send a message out via any social media platform, you’re at the mercy of its algorithms. While some staff might get your post delivered to the top of their home feed, others may not see it for several hours, or even days, meaning that people could be acting on outdated or incorrect information. Even direct messages risk being missed if the platform is regularly used for everyday comms. Too much depends on a user’s personal settings, on whether they have the right push notifications enabled, and on the way they engage with the people and accounts in their network. There’s a strong possibility your important news could get lost among the viral videos and posts from friends, or even casually scrolled past by the people who need to see it most.

Mixed messages

Any message put out into a public forum risks being reshared, taken out of context or commented on in a way you haven’t anticipated. By publishing on social media you are able to craft the original message but you forgo control over what happens next. What you had intended to be a straightforward, informative piece of business communication could actually become a public conversation, and when heightened emotions such as anger or worry are added to the mix, this could become confused or confrontational, creating panic among the people you were trying to inform and reassure. You should also bear in mind that your post will remain on social media until you delete it. There is always the possibility that your message could be shared at a later date, once the danger has passed, which could create unnecessary panic amongst your audience.

Privacy problems

Even encrypted social media platforms like Whatsapp can create privacy issues for your organisation if messages are forwarded on to others outside the primary contact group. To play it safe, organisations should treat anything said on social media as a public conversation. So, if a message contains sensitive or confidential information that is crucial to staff safety or wellbeing, social media isn’t the right place to share it.

Reach and response

While some engagement analysis can be conducted on most social media platforms, and WhatsApp will show you who your message has been delivered to and who has read it, none will allow you to efficiently and accurately report on successful message deliveries, opens and responses. Nor are any of the platforms able to ensure your message gets through when phones are set to silent or when ‘do not disturb’ is turned on. If it’s crucial that your message reaches every person on a list, and you want to be 100% certain that they have opened and read your message, social media simply doesn’t have the capabilities you need.

The benefits of a custom-built crisis communications tool

The ideal crisis event communications tool is one that is dedicated for this purpose. It can cut through the noise of daily chatter to quickly and effectively alert employees to potential risks and provide the information they need to safeguard themselves and those around them.

Mass notification services make it possible for organisations to send and track safety messages to thousands of employees simultaneously without compromising security or creating reputational risk. Messages cannot be edited or forwarded, protecting the credibility and accuracy of the information, and all messages, opens and responses are fully auditable, both in real time and through historical data reports. Being in complete control over who receives what information, and when, is imperative in an emergency.

These tools are fully compliant with BS 22301, which guarantees that an organisation is meeting the HSE’s regulatory standards for business continuity: yet another important benefit that social media simply doesn’t have the ability to deliver.

Credible, accurate messages your staff can act on

The new Peoplesafe Alert app is a simple safety notification tool designed for crisis management. Easy to use, with an intuitive user interface and the ability to sit on multiple devices and operating systems, our app is a cost-effective choice for organisations that are looking to roll out better safety measures without large upfront investments.

Unlike social media alerts, which won’t reach recipients when ‘do not disturb’ settings are activated, Peoplesafe Alert can override these settings to make sure important information gets through. Additionally, the message will continue to be sent until the recipient has acknowledged that they have read it or completed the required response.

The app also empowers businesses to easily send messages to staff within a specified geographical area, thanks to its innovative use of geofencing technology, and can be integrated with fire, security, building management and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, to make sure the right people are alerted when there’s a problem.

An accredited, global safety solution

Although UK based, the Peoplesafe Alert app is available in all countries around the globe, meaning that employee messages can be targeted by country if required. This also means that messages can reach employees no matter where they are in the world when a crisis unfolds. When sending a communication, administrators have the ability to tailor the message to the recipient’s native language.

Find out more

If COVID-19 has made you reassess your business continuity plans, or you would like to discover a low-cost way to stay in closer contact with remote teams, details of the Peoplesafe Alert app can be found over on our product page, where you’ll also find the answers to our most frequently asked questions on the app and the details you need to get in touch with our team.


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