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Dark Websites as a Social Media Crisis Management Strategy.pdf

Dark Websites as a Social Media Crisis Management Strategy.pdf

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Published by: Sowarga on Aug 04, 2013
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Dark Websites as a Social Media Crisis Management Strategy
A White Paper on Dark Websites and Their Alternatives
By Melissa Agnes
Dark websites are a social media crisis management strategy used in differentsituations by major corporations who want to position themselves as the leading sourceof information throughout the crisis. Although they may be counter-productive whenused by the wrong types of companies or in the wrong types of crisis situations, thereare some organizations, industries and situations where a dark website may be used inpreferred practice.Within this White Paper I’m going to explore:The benefits of having a dark websiteBest and worst practices of the dark website strategyWhich corporations should most likely consider this strategyWhat others can do in its stead, when this particular strategy isn't geared for theirbrand.
First thing’s first, what
a dark website?
A dark website is a pre-developed site that is not set live until your corporation findsitself in the midst of a crisis. Pre-crisis, a dark website is equipped with the appropriatelegal and other documentations that your corporation may feel will be needed, but nothave the opportunity to acquire during an attack. In the event of a crisis, the dark site isset live and the appropriate information and details are added to it - such ascommunications to the public, direct information and news concerning both the crisisand the brand, etc.There are three ways a dark website tends to be used:1.The regular corporate website is removed and the dark site is temporarily set livein its place.2.A link is added from the corporate website’s home page, attracting viewers to thedark site - which is set up as an extension of the corporate site.3.The dark site is set live on its own unique URL, based on the most likely searchterms.
The ultimate goal during a crisis
Whether going the dark website route, or utilizing some other platform for crisiscommunications, in the midst of an attack, one of your main goals should always be tobe the primary source of credible information, for both the public and the media. Thisallows for:
Dark Websites as a Social Media Crisis Management Strategy
White Paper by Melissa AgnesCopyright 2012
Control over the content surrounding the crisis (not by hiding or avoiding facts, butby assuring that what is being released into mainstream media is in fact factual)Assuring customers and prospects that the situation is being taken seriously andthat your corporation is committed to them in good times, as well as through thebad.
Best and worst practices for dark website users
In their pre-preparing haste, many corporations don’t realize that a dark website has thepotential to do just as much damage to their brand over the long-term, that it may dogood in the short-run. This highly depends on your choice of execution strategy.Let’s examine the different ways a dark website can be used, and the affects that thesestrategies can have on your brand in the long-term.
Note: No matter the execution strategy, your dark website should be hosted with company that can handle extremely high amounts of traffic. The last thing you want is to have your dark website crash in the midst of a severe crisis.
1.The regular corporate website is removed and the dark site is temporarily setlive in its place
In the time of a crisis, customers, prospects, investors and the media willinstinctively navigate directly to your corporation’s website for details. Replacing thatwebsite with a dark site will show that your brand is:Completely and fully dedicated to the crisisCommitted to providing them with news and updates as they happenEasily able to add, edit and manage the content in real-time
Negative affects: 
There are many crucial factors that tend to get overlooked when acorporation decides to take down their entire corporate site and replace it with a darkone. This, on many different levels, is not likely the best strategy for the followingreasons:SEO:It takes a lot of work and a lot of time to build up your website’s searchengine rankings. What corporations don’t always realize is how easily and how
it can all come crashing down. We never know when those crawlers aregoing to come by and crawl through our site, but if they come by and the site istemporarily down or changed, all of your previously indexed pages are going tobe replaced.
Note: If this is your preferred strategy, then be sure to tell Google that it’s a temporary replacement by putting a 503 “service temporarily unavailable” - and to specify the amount of time to “come back in”. Learn more about 503’s  here 
Dark Websites as a Social Media Crisis Management Strategy
White Paper by Melissa AgnesCopyright 2012
Long-term accessibility:Once the crisis is over the dark website will be removedand replaced with the regular corporate site. This may seem like a good idea(“the crisis is over, let’s take it down and forget all about it”), but what about thosefuture customers, prospects, investors or media relations who want to researchthe crisis? Likely, the news of the crisis and most definitely the offendingcommunications (the source of the crisis and all comments and blog postsproceeding it) will not disappear.So what happens when someone wants to research the events that happened,after the crisis is over, and they’re unable to find anything from your brand? Onlyone side of the story goes down in findable history. Talk about a great way to hurtyour brand in the long run no matter what the results of the crisis were.Over-dramatization: Odds are, even in the midst of a crisis, some form of regularbusiness will continue to transpire. By completely removing the corporate websiteand replacing it with a dark site you subconsciously deliver a message to yourstill-happy customers that your company doesn’t have time to provide them withyour regular services or products because you’re in the middle of a total meltdown.And what about those who haven’t yet heard of the crisis and proceed to thewebsite for regular business or informative reasons, and are shocked when theyfind that something so huge has gone down that it is taking all of your company’sresources? Not the best impression on those who were still happy with yourbrand!
When to use this strategy: 
This, however, is a very important strategy to take whenfaced with a major crisis. I’m talking natural disaster, disease epidemic, terrorist attacks- severe disasters that involve a large portion of the population and call for high alertsand extensive coverage.
2.A link is added from your corporate website’s home page, attracting viewers tothe dark site - which is set up as an extension of your corporate site
For most case scenarios, this is a highly affective strategy. However, many of the samedownsides do exist when not executed properly:SEO:Your brand won’t be faced with the possibility of losing all your corporatesearch engine rankings like we saw above, but unless the proper measures aretaken to resubmit the home page to the major search engines for the crawlers toindex the dark site immediately, it is a possibility that, in the short existence of thecrisis, the dark site won’t be optimized for maximum reach and find-ability.Long-term accessibility:Because the dark site was developed to be either anextension of your corporate site or its own micro-site, after the crisis has passed,
Dark Websites as a Social Media Crisis Management Strategy
White Paper by Melissa AgnesCopyright 2012

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