Too many people look at the latest social media gadgets and can’t get beyond first impressions and what’s on the packaging.
They see the “What are you doing?” interface at the top of Twitter and they say, “How pointless and narcissistic is that?” “Who cares what I’m doing right now?” And “Why would I care what you’re doing?”
Or they see the “poke” lingo in Facebook and can’t imagine serious business uses.
They miss the point. It’s not about the initial application as envisioned by the developer; it’s about what you can envision as an implication of the application.
To paraphrase Ted Kennedy eulogizing his brother Bobby: “Some men see Twitter as it is and say ‘Why?’ I dream new uses for social media and say, ‘Why not?'”
These aren’t like pharmaceuticals that should be used only as directed. Off-label use is fine.
For example, Twitter could be one way to rapidly alert an emergency response team that they have been activated. You could create a Twitter account called “Your company alerts” and have all of your key staff subscribe to cell phone alerts from that account. You wouldn’t use the account except in an emergency.
But then, when a disaster strikes, you would have Twitter as one way of getting the word out. As Dennis McDonald recommends, you wouldn’t rely on it as your only means of communication, but it could potentially shave several precious minutes off the time it takes to reach everyone. You could use Twitter to send a message like this to get your team to participate in a crisis activation call:
Explosion at plant. Conference call at 800-555-1212 at 8:45 for details of emergency activation.
At the same time, you could start working through your old-fashioned phone tree until you know that the message was successfully delivered.
Likewise, you could create a secret Facebook group called “Your Company Crisis Management” and have all of your key staff join. Then, when a disaster hits, you could use the Message All Members function to blast an alert to everyone (which may include sending text messages to some), and you could use the Wall and Discussion Board to post information your team needs and to clarify issues.
This kind of group could remain invisible to the general public; you could create a companion site (or a blog) very quickly for public interactions.
I’m quite certain that neither Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg nor Twitter founder Biz Stone envisioned this kind of use for their applications when they began developing them.
What kind of “off-label” uses for social media have you found?
Technorati: Facebook, Twitter, Social Media, Crisis Communications, Crisis management, crisis, disaster, Mark Zuckerberg, Biz Stone
4 thoughts on “Facebook and Twitter: Off-Label Uses”
I attended a conference earlier this year where there was an electrical fire that forced the hotel to evacuate everyone for an hour, and about half the guests for about 12 hours. The hotel and the organization that sponsored the conference did a wonderful job keeping everyone informed about the status by making periodic announcements over a portable public address system in the courtyard. Trouble was, people wandered away from the courtyard and didn’t get updates. How much easier would it have been to just tweet attendees with updates? When catastrophic disasters occur, you are much more likely to be able to send and receive SMS data than phone calls on your mobile phone. I assume the telecom backbone can line up SMS data better than voice data because SMS is smaller chunks of bits and bytes. SMS makes a ton of sense, and a free service like twitter is a great way to take advantage of mass SMS distribution. Check out this link for 4-5 posts on my fire experience.
Oh, of course, the URL would be helpful…
Thanks, Ben. Yes, that’s an interesting potential use. One issue is that for something like this to be effective, you really need to plan it in advance, so you can let people know where to go for the updates. That’s why I think the “dark sites” in Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.com make sense.