Social Media and Personal Risk Management: A Case Study of a Paris Vacation
By vdimauro on October 30, 2010
I am a road-warrior. You know the type - a real dyed-in-the wool, hardcore traveler. The kind who knows all the tricks of travel survival and has lots of amazing stories of world-wide adventure for work and pleasure. I have seen riots in Tahiti, floods in Belize, night markets in Thailand and have given speeches in 5 different countries in 6 days.
And this past week's travels though Paris tested my fortitude because I had my 9 year old daughter with me at a time when it was fraught with terror alerts, fuel shortages, violent protests and strikes. All of which happened *after* I landed at CDG Airport last Saturday. I wanted to show her the world in its beautiful glory but now had a "situation" to be "managed." While I was at the top of Notre Dame I got a text alert that the terror code had raised from red to amber - meaning "imminent and likely danger" for major locations such as the place where I was standing. We have a great photo of kid looking delighted and mom looking nauseous.
Naturally I turned to social media to keep informed of the situation and to decide whether to stay or to leave. But what was the best way to use the tools of my trade when it was a matter of personal safety and not about brands or influencer relations or social business strategy? This was the question....and here is what I did.
One remarkable part of my ability to manage was the need to be continually connected to information and people who had the information I needed. Combining people and context was the best way I found to keep informed.
My mornings started as early as possible, while my child slept off the sights and the many hot chocolates of the past day, with a quick news scan on Google. I often varied the first search of the am between "France and terror" and "Paris Strike" with an occasional "Paris and jet fuel shortage" for good measure and variety.
Next, I turned to my email and text messages quickly scanning past urgent IMs from my mother and those from my colleagues asking if they should cover Monday's meeting in the event I don't return on time. And watching for correspondence from the embassy to see if there were any new alerts.
On to newspapers to see where the strikes would be held in order to map my day to avoid "the Grieve" as the protests were called.
Online community of course played a role in the information sourcing. Flyertalk community was a great resource - it is an online forum for frequent flyers who are historically not an alarmist group of people but well skilled at predicting transportation risk.
And I finally landed on trusty Twitter where I derived the most information of value culled from the wisdom of crowds. It was here, on my Twitter account, where my peer group (those people I know and those I don't but were connected to due to the situation at large) were able to bubble up the most credible sources of information and ideas. My Twitter world view was not one of random opinions but was able to make sense of the noise of too much information and not enough time. I was pointed to the best and most credible sources throughout the day and night. Twitter was there when I needed it and actually much faster for information access than the Google news searches as articles and blogs were being identified through Twitter faster than Google could index them.
All in all, we had a good visit to Paris because, through efficient use of social media, I was able to manage risk efficiently. My kid saw some great sights - all of the good and none of the bad - because we were able to navigate through the turmoil with skill. Her mom is a little grayer around the temples now but social media made it possible to stay in Paris.. and even to enjoy it in spite of it all! In the end, I don't think we would have remained in Paris this past week were it not for the safety of information flow to help me make informed decisions.
Now this certainly has some real world application to business as well. While I don't see the necessity of a company needing to be consumed by accessing information, people and context 24X7 like I needed to do while roaming the streets of strife, but I do wonder how an organization can make effective business decisions in the absence of timely information context. Perhaps it is time for even the most risk averse organization to embrace the power of social as a serious business tool.
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