Case Study: RIM’s poor Social Media response to Blackberry outages of October 2011Jackie Titolo, Pei Wang Research In Motion (RIM), a global leader in wireless innovation, revolutionized themobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry® solution in 1999. It powers millions ofBlackBerry users around the world across several continents On Monday October 10, 2011, RIM‟s U.K. data center experienced server problems,leaving many customers in the dark with prolonged interruptions of their messaging service –mainly with BBM, web browsing and email capabilities. Unsatisfied users immediately took tosocial media – particularly Twitter – to express frustrations, which resulted in the creation of theDearBlackBerry trending topic. Almost as shocking as the incident itself, was the lack of communication through socialmedia that RIM, a company that grew its reputation by being at the forefront of technology andcommunication, offered the media and its affected customers in North America, Europe, Africaand Asia. Worsening the situation for RIM and BlackBerry was the release of Apple‟s iPhone4S the same week and the growing popularity of Android smart phones that had been luringaway BlackBerry users for several months. Many subscribers were without services for 3 days, which combined with RIM‟s tight lipand only 2 brief tweets over those 3 days, allowed the problems publicized by users to besignificantly inflated since not all users experienced all problems. As consumer goodscompanies are the most likely to experience a social media crisis, generally triggered by a publicdissatisfaction with a product, it was key for RIM to assure users they were working onalleviating the problem and reiterating their gratitude for their customers‟ loyal business. The
public was already aware of the problem so ignoring it simply provided individuals a platform to„fill in the blank‟ as to what they believed the problem was. As a result, rumors that BlackBerrywas up for sale and RIM was expected to break up swirled across the Internet. Beyond theseinconveniences, the service outage affected U.S. federal agencies, including the Federal Reserveand the U.S. Treasury, taking RIM‟s silence beyond irresponsible and into dangerous. BlackBerry co-CEO Mike Lazaridis released a public apology video only after the glitchwas cleared, which did little to bridge the gap RIM put between itself and its customers. Nor didthe company make an immediate attempt to make amends by offering the 40 million affectedBlackBerry subscribers a peace offering, like free apps or a discount on their next bill.Blackberry‟s UK website, where the problem originated, did not so much as post a messageaddressing the situation and 2 days into the crisis, the BlackBerry Help Blog had not beenupdated in 4 days. BlackBerry help forums also went neglected, while questions and commentsposted to FaceBook were not only ignored, but often blocked and removed. Tens of thousands of tweets were addressed to BlackBerry‟s multiple handles but thoseseeking answers had to settle for “@UK_BlackBerry Message delays were caused by a coreswitch failure in RIM‟s infrastructure. Sincerely sorry but now being resolved”, which came over24 hours into the crisis. The situation deeply affected the value of RIM‟s stock and hasundoubtedly affected sales on other products, like tablets. In not recognizing its customersintelligence and desire for concrete information, RIM ironically emerged as one of 2011‟s worstexamples of modern communication.