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BlackBerry’s failure in dealing with their blackout crisis using social media

The BlackBerry messenger crash that lasted for three days attracted a lot criticism on the social media. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter were replete with customer complaints and queries for resolution of the issue.

Millions of BlackBerry users worldwide were left in the dark with prolonged interruptions of their messaging service – the BBM and email capabilities. The problem spread from Europe to Latin America, Africa, Middle East, India and also to North America. The server problems had originated at Research in Motion (RIM)’s UK data center on Monday, October 10.

Research in Motion did release a statement blaming a “core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure” but said nothing further on the continued problems.

Almost everyone from high-roller business men to celebrities posted their frustrations and made “Dear BlackBerry…” a trending topic on social networking sites, especially Twitter.  In such a scenario one would naturally expect a company of RIM’s stature to react and placate the fuming consumers. This was important as most of them threatened to switch smartphones. The timing could not have been worse as Apple’s iOS5 and iPhone 4S are unveiled in the same week and both got very positive reviews from industry experts. Such developments along with the diminishing sales of BlackBerry phones in the last two months were really bad signs for the once all-mighty RIM.

However, despite the strong criticism, RIM’s Twitter page remained relatively quiet and posted barely two tweets in three days. RIM’s founder – Mike Lazaridis – has recently apologized to the BlackBerry community and posted a video message on Thursday that says, “We know we’ve let many of you down. You expect more from us. I expect more from us”.

The problem has been resolved finally but the apathy with which RIM dealt with the issue did tarnish its reputation. There is one thing that the inclusion of social media on crises management has taught businesses – honesty and speed are the keys to success. There has to be response to every bad or good news that concerns the organization. This is all the more important when the problem has such as huge magnitude. In the case of RIM, the BBM crash impacted the users in five continents.

Probably some people including the executives and managers at RIM thought that the problem was less than what the people were describing on social networking sites. But the fact is that millions of users (both corporate and personal) WERE affected. It was not as trivial as a ‘messenger service’ not working. There were users who could not access the Internet, send or receive emails and access data on their phones. It was good on part of Research in Motion to resolve the issue in 3 days but it was its responsibility to be more proactive in reacting to the posts on social media.

Blackberry failed to deal with their blackout crises because of its inability to understand the potential of social media for a business. The message that finally came from Mike Lazaridis on Twitter was expected a little earlier to say the least.

Better luck next time :-)

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Kristjan Mar Hauksson is the founder and director of search and online communications at Nordic eMarketing. The company specializes in multilingual online communications, organic search engine optimization, and marketing through several verticals such as tourism, finance, government, and pharmaceuticals. It helps companies gain international visibility online and to use the Internet as a communication channel; it also provides consultation in web content management systems and analytics solutions. Hauksson is on the board of directors of SEMPO, on the Advisory board for Bing Advertising and founded the Iceland SEO/SEM forum. He has been involved in developing Internet solutions since 1996, and involved in search engine optimization and marketing since 1997. He is a publish author on the topic of Internet Marketing and among other co-authored the acclaimed Global Search Engine Marketing.

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