Four Lessons For Social Media Preparedness From Sandy

The unfortunate reality is that we need to be more prepared now than we were 10 years ago -- no matter what part of the country we live in -- in the wake of more flooding, ice storms, earthquakes, blizzards, and tornadoes.

Whether a national brand or local business, you have to be prepared for how your business, your employees and your customers will be affected by Mother Nature.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “We have a 100-year flood every two years now.” It was a quip with a thread of levity to ease a strained time, but it was also layered with truth. He went on to say: “That is not a political statement; that is a factual statement…We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns: We have an old infrastructure, we have old systems. That is not a good combination and that is one of the lessons I will take from this, personally.”

As social media professionals, we are dealing with some of the latest technologies. However, that doesn’t mean our systems and processes are adapted to all modern realities. The following are four takeaways we’ve had the luxury to reflect on while observing with deep empathy from the West Coast.



1. Pretend you have 100 employees. There have been some awfully bad responses to Sandy (see #3 below), but there have been some really human, meaningful ones as well. The folks at Fab continue to make their mark in digital advertising. Their response to Sandy was no different.

Fab has 8 million users after being in business for not even two years. But, for Sandy, it embraced being small. Fab showed the humanness of how Sandy was affecting its business and its more than 600 employees. On his personal blog, Founder Jason Goldberg talked about Fab’s offices one block from the Hudson River, the two warehouses in New Jersey without power, and the 1/3 of Fab employees without power and getting help from the 2/3 with power. See the full post here.

Sometimes, when we get big, we forget how disasters affect individuals. Imagine your company has only 100 employees and is headquartered in the epicenter. Then decide how to act.

2. Turn off auto-posting. As the number of platforms, demographics and geographies we post to become more complex, we increasingly turn to automation tools to help with posting in an efficient and timely manner.

Some disasters cannot be predicted (earthquakes, terrorism), but many can (tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards). When a potential natural disaster is impending, that’s the time to forsake efficiency and embrace safety.

Turn off all auto-posting to ensure nothing slips through the cracks that would be inappropriate. Best intentions can be sabotaged with a simple act of not paying attention to the details.

3. Don’t be afraid of silence. Sometimes the best action is no action -- a lesson you would think American Apparel would have learned by now.

The ever-classy retailer decided to send out a 20% offer on Monday night of the storm with the copy line “in case you’re bored during the storm” — available for 36 hours with the code “SANDYSALE.”

Gap got in on the action with a tweet saying “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of shopping today. How about you?” So did Urban Outfitters on Instagram with a photo that read “This storm blows! But free shipping on al orders doesn’t. Today only! For one day only! Enter ALLSOGGY.”

Don’t be afraid of keeping quiet.

4. Know where your servers sit. Sandy took down many websites — including Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gawker and Gizmodo — thanks to flooding in the basement of Internet service provider Datagram’s building.

A good Web hosting strategy should include contingency plans should your primary servers go down. Most digital marketing is interwoven between social platforms and a company’s hosted website. Make sure there are no weak links in the chain.

On A Personal Note

I can’t say I’ve ever experienced something like Sandy. But, having lived through the ’89 earthquake and extreme flooding of 1995 and 1997 in California, there are definitely aspects that ring familiar. My heart goes out to everyone affected.

1 comment about "Four Lessons For Social Media Preparedness From Sandy".
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  1. Sean Grace from Strategic Franchising, November 2, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.

    Great tips Bryan! Regarding number 4, here at CoupSmart, our CTO spent the day before the storm moving our cloud capacity from Virginia to servers on the west coast to prevent any problems from our end. It turns out our servers wouldn't have been affected, but it pays to be prepared. We also now have some experience doing this, so we know exactly what steps to go through and how long it will take if and when the need arises again.

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