Twitter is emerging as a critical crisis management tool. Los Angeles Police and airport authorities used Twitter skillfully to provide timely updates on unfolding events following a shooting at LAX.
• The tweets reached a far wider audience much more quickly than typical press briefings.
• They gave the LAPD and LAX a proactive posture in getting out the news.
• And they allowed authorities to focus on what they viewed as the most significant information, effectively allowing them to control the message while the crisis persisted.
These are all valuable commodities in a crisis, which should encourage more companies, nonprofits and public agencies to add Twitter to their crisis management plans.
Since its growth in popularity, social media has been viewed in a defensive light. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites were places to monitor for criticism or reveal some breaking, potentially embarrassing news and comment as necessary.
The emergence if Twitter as a news segregator — where bloggers and reporters highlight their new posts and stories — makes it an ideal setting for crisis managers to share targeted updates.
Media eyes are already paying attention on Twitter and, through the use of hash tags, a crisis manager can talk to a larger online group of interested bystanders, including travelers wondering how the shooting would affect their flights.
Don't be fooled. You lose control during a crisis. Tweeting updates cannot give you back control, but it does offer an outlet to control the timing and content of information outflow, at least during the crisis.
But all the rules of savvy crisis response remain. You can't hide, even behind the proactivity of Twitter. Your credibility is only as good as the content and timeliness of your tweets.
Used effectively, Twitter can project a sense of confidence and command of events, whether true or not.