Crisis communications plans, as I said earlier and as Dennis McDonald agrees, should have some kind of social media component, whether they use Facebook or Twitter or some other way of delivering text messages, along with “dark site” blogs.
The main idea is to build in multiple levels of redundancy for your communications, because no one method gets to everyone, and you can never trust in just one delivery mechanism because you need to account for the possibility that your primary means may be knocked out.
In a college environment, though, Facebook and texting via cell phone come close to being universal delivery methods, as St. John’s University and UW-Madison showed last month.
When a masked freshman came to campus at St. John’s University with what police said was a loaded rifle sticking out of a bag, the school alerted students via cell-phone text messages within 18 minutes.
I think that with the growth of social media sites like Facebook, and with high-profile examples of success like this, these methods are going to go from being back-ups and nice add-ons (like a belt and suspenders), to becoming the main way people communicate quickly in a crisis.