Staying sharp in the era of fake news and Insta influencers

Since we launched Social Simulator back in 2010, we’ve seen huge changes in the social media landscape and the way that news breaks and crises are managed online. In recent months we’ve been helping clients rehearse their readiness to handle fake news and malicious digital manipulation, blend media relations with customer care, monitor international social media reaction, and co-ordinate messaging across multiple agencies.

We’ve been iterating our platform constantly, and over the last few months we’ve been taking stock of feedback from clients and roleplayers. We’re taking a big step forward this month, launching version 2.0 of our Simulator as part of a roadmap aiming to keep us at the cutting edge.

Social Simulator 2.0 has three big ideas at its core:

Evolving to reflect the digital world today

  • More use of video, images and emojis: social media today is more colourful, animated and visual than ever – not least in a crisis. We’ve been incorporating gifs and videos in our roleplay for several years, and version 2.0 of our platform makes it easier for clients to use these in their own posts
  • New Instagram-style module: the new module brings image posting, comments and hashtag search to our platform to challenge clients to ensure their monitoring and content creation can handle this platform of 800m real-world users
  • LinkedIn- and Facebook-style module refresh: we’ve refreshed the look and feel of some of our core modules to keep current with changes to their real-world counterparts
  • Richer email-style messaging: we know how important email is to an effective simulation, so we’ve added draft messages and ‘flags’ on incoming emails to help teams work more naturally in the inbox

Adapting to the changing way that crises break and are handled

  • Engaging with communities: Facebook groups are a crucial source of intelligence and a vital channel for engagement in a lot of real-world incidents – and with Facebook Workplace, an internal communication platform too. We’ve made our platform more flexible so clients can build their confidence engaging with groups as well as managing their own pages
  • Customer care: often, it’s customer care staff who are the first line of defence in a crisis, and we’re helping teams get more sophisticated in their social media customer service engagement, with direct comment replies
  • Operational status: our exercises involve participants from across the client organisation, so we’ve streamlined our ‘status’ tracking tool to show simulated movements in stock price, transport status or in-house IT house systems, to keep the whole team engaged
  • Noise and manipulation: we’ve grown and enhanced our Autopilot tool, which uses themes from real-world social media reaction, misinformation and manipulation to add volume and noise to exercises, challenging clients to verify information and tune in on the key themes

Streamlining exercise delivery and roleplay

  • Reducing repetition: we’ve made dozens of behind-the-scenes improvements to the way clients and roleplayers log in, navigate the simulator, publish news coverage and export submissions. We’ve eliminated a lot of the repetition and added tools to speed up roleplay, such as auto-tweeting media articles when they’re published, and reviewing character activity from the roleplay dashboard
  • Improved speed and reliability: we’ve moved our simulator to new infrastructure, and rebuilt many of our dashboards and control panels, so roleplay is faster and more natural
  • Unified user interface: we’ve refreshed the look and feel of the simulator to support modern web browsers better – including on smartphones and tablets. Partner-branded exercise platforms are more elegant, and labelling is more consistent to help users get started more easily with less pre-exercise briefing

We’re never done keeping our platform at the leading edge, but we reckon with this release we’re ensuring we have the best-in-class technology for crisis simulation exercises. We’d love to show it to you.