The news of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's historic and courageous landing of a US Airways jet in New York's Hudson River broke on Twitter, complete with mobile phone video. Imagine you're a marketing, social media, or communications employee of that airline. It's evident that one of your aircraft has landed in a river, with unknown and potentially tragic consequences. The social web is instantly ablaze with speculation, snippets of information, and unverified photos and videos.
What do you do? How do you uncover the truth, coordinate information among the crash site, the airport, and company headquarters? How do you keep people informed? And do you even try?
The social web doesn't create conversations about your company; it magnifies and extends them. Thus, if you're in business, there's no doubt that people are talking about you online as you read this sentence. Typically, the volume and urgency of those conversations are more or less static. Social media mentions of your company may ebb and flow a bit from month to month, but you aren't likely to see a huge increase. Until you do.
Will a social media-fueled crisis ever show up on your organization's door like a Girl Scout peddling Thin Mints? Probably not.
It's called a crisis precisely because you didn't see it coming. "Bridge Out, 13 Miles Ahead" isn't a crisis. Being hit randomly by a stray meteorite is. And the real-time Web makes the meteorite scenario a lot more likely ...