Yesterday I was millions of people taken completely unawares by Twitter’s DDOS (distributed denial of service). In plain English, that means that those of us who consider Twitter our virtual world were shut out from “talking” to our tweeps, conducting our informal focus groups and taking comfort from our cheering squads while the service was suffering from an outage.

Apparently this also affected Facebook, but since I’m one of those who streams content from Twitter to Facebook, rather than vice versa (or simply versa), the T outage hit me harder than the FB one. Just like Scott Monty tweeted:

Scott Monty (ScottMonty) on Twitter_1249616422639

Jokes aside (or gnashing of teeth, depending on which side of the fence you’re on), the outage reminded me of just how dependent fixated we communicators can get on our favorite channels of communication.

Seriously, if something did happen to permanently shut Twitter down… or Friendfeed… or whatever your preferred digital communication channel is – what would you do? And, more importantly, how would it affect your work?

I don’t know about you, but what I’ve learned over the years – and what was brought resoundingly home to me yesterday – is that good communication is not about using just one channel effectively (or simply very often).

It’s about using the right mix of channels to achieve your (or your client’s) objectives – and always having backups.

For example…

If you normally issue news releases via a wire service, do you also have a strong list of targeted media contacts whom you can connect with if the wire service fails… or if your client can’t afford it?

If your regular media monitoring service goes down, do you have a backup such as Google Reader?

If you communicate regularly with influencers via a medium such as Twitter or Facebook, would you still be able to reach them through good old-fashioned email, or not-so-old-fashioned Google Talk, AIM or Skype?

If you’re a company that uses Yammer, do you still have an alternate way to connect with your co-workers and employees?

Would you be able to pick up the phone and – be still, my beating heart – actually talk to someone who could move your communication plan forward?

When we talk about social media paving the yellow brick road to relationship-building, we’ve got to be able to walk the talk. Because if we don’t, the very thing we tell our clients we’ll help them do is at stake.

After all, it’s not about us; it’s about helping them achieve their goals and measurable objectives. And that means using what’s best for them, not for us.

That means being able to connect, with the right people, at the right time, no matter what the technology du jour is. It means keeping our communications alive, rather than digging into a deep and narrow hole from which might – just might – constrict us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a #twitteraddict. But I don’t want to be Lazarus.

What do you think? Do you have additional – or opposing – lessons to share on communicating in the 21st century? Do let me know and please tell me if I’m completely off the mark. This is your sandbox as much as mine.

Photo: Sarah G…

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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