Social media can hold the key to transforming enterprise business continuity management (BCM), especially crisis/incident management and communications practices, according to Gartner, Inc.

Analysts predict that, by 2015, 75 percent of organizations with BCM programs will have public social media services in their crisis communications strategies, and they advised BCM professionals to immediately begin assessing social media's opportunities — and risks.

"Enterprises simply cannot afford to ignore social media as a crisis communications tool," said Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner. "In many cases, social media may represent the only available means of locating and contacting personnel; providing stakeholders with the information and assistance they need; informing citizens, customers and partners of product/service availability; and taking other business-critical actions following a disruptive event," said Walls.

Walls said that effective use of a new communications channel requires forward planning and practice. Attempting to leverage social media for the first time during a crisis can cause more harm than good. Instead, he said that organizations must develop comprehensive social media strategies and tactics for crisis/incident management and integrate social media with the enterprise's established BCM processes.