Crisis Management – BlackBerry Turned to Social Media

BlackBerry CEO

If you use a BlackBerry smart phone, you were probably irritated by the global failure of their data network (that lasted almost a week). Affected BlackBerry users experienced slow-to-no data connections– i.e. no email, BlackBerry messenger or Internet access. The service interruptions started in Europe and spread to the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean and then hit North America.

RIM (the company that runs the back-end infrastructure that makes your BlackBerry work) scrambled to fix the problem – but many of their customers who could jump ship did just that.  Although the Blackberry appears to be a preferred mobile device for busy professionals – and apparently activists, there is stiff competition from Apple, Android and other device makers. BlackBerry needed to manage the 24-hour news cycle driven by social networks to assure their customers that a fix was in progress. Their best bet was to join the conversation and use their own social media networks to engage their customers. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were all used by RIM/BlackBerry to keep customers abreast with the company’s efforts to restore service – here’s how and why:

1. Twitter – Public engagement of customers
The company released service updates via Twitter. The tweeted updates also drove visitors to their Website for details – and with way over half million followers on Twitter, this was a great way to reach a potential audience of about 25,000,000 if their messages were re-tweeted. RIM/BlackBerry also (publicly) replied to their customers’ positive and negative messages to show that they “understood” their frustrations and appreciated customers that remained committed to their product.

2. Facebook – Monitor and profile customer sentiment for reputation management campaigns.
Service updates were also posted on Facebook. There are two great things about engaging customers in this way via Facebook – 1) It is easy to tie sentiments to the company’s effort; they could read the comments and track how often updates were shared to gauge reach. 2) Facebook’s analytics allowed RIM/BlackBerry to access demographic information about their disgruntled clients. The company cold then use this information to craft future reputation management campaigns.

3. YouTube – Deliver on-demand televised messages
BlackBerry’s failure was more than a tech support nightmare. The big guys had to demonstrate their concern for how the service outage affected their standards and business. BlackBerry/RIM Founder and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis used YouTube to speak directly to customers. Although the company could (and will) run PSAs or ads via traditional TV networks, using YouTube allowed the company to get an important message out to customers before they could be accommodated by the major broadcast networks.

So next time your brand is in a crisis, don’t hesitate to copy the big guys – social media works!