The Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage has brought chaos not just to those of us who use it to keep in touch with family and friends, but businesses that rely on social media apps to communicate with colleagues to promote themselves.
At Communicate Media, we provide media training courses and crisis media training courses to tech companies; therefore, we were interested to see how Facebook handled this situation – and how Twitter subtly exploited it.
So, what happened to Facebook?
Facebook has commented that there was “no evidence that user data was compromised,” and this was sensible given the genuine concerns of the public – full marks for thinking about the audience! It has been reported separately that it was like “someone had pulled the cables from their data centres all at once and disconnected them from the internet”, explained by web infrastructure firm – Cloudflare.
In another statement, Facebook said: “To all the people and businesses around the world who depend on us, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused by today’s outage across our platforms. We’ve been working as hard as we can to restore access, and our systems are now back up and running.”
Facebook used this dampening situation to their advantage; the idea of people and businesses – both audiences – “depending” on Facebook indicates that the tech giant takes its vast power and reach seriously.
Media Coverage and Twitter Joy
No spokespeople were doing the rounds of the media studios. Having a human being put across the messages of regret and apology reduced the need for journalists to ask other people to comment.
The outage encouraged a typical example of the media, desperate to cover the story but lacking spokespeople and information, turning to “experts” for comment and analysis to fill some airtime. Sheera Frenkel, for instance, a technology reporter at The New York Times, popped up on the Today programme to suggest that part of the reason the company struggled to fix the outage was that “the people trying to figure out what this problem was couldn’t even physically get into the building.”
But what about that other social media behemoth, Twitter? “Facebook down: 10 memes poking fun at the outage as world flocks to Twitter instead. As the world flocked to other sites to get their social media fix, Twitter wrote: ‘hello literally everyone’,” Sky News reported.
The Sky News report covers the various memes, funny comments, and videos users posted on Twitter. We would say that Twitter was very sensible in not commenting overtly beyond this wry reference and then letting others – its users and tech experts – speak on its behalf.
We would never recommend any company dance on the grave of a rival that’s suffering a crisis.
Instead, allow others to promote you and avoid comments to the media, just as Twitter did so eloquently.
We worked with one company whose former director of comms had thought that it was a good idea to give an off the record briefing exploiting the pain of a rival. Our client told us it took about two hours for social media and other trade publications who hadn’t had the briefing on working out who was behind these negative comments.
Twitter’s approach was sage, given that it was then forced to issue an apology after the extra traffic that it experienced caused a slow down on its servers.
“Sometimes more people than usual use Twitter,” the company said in a statement. “We prepare for these moments, but today things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some of you may have had an issue seeing replies and DMs as a result. This has been fixed. Sorry about that!”
One final thought on the Facebook outage
As well as crisis communications workshops for tech companies, we regularly carry out media training for them and other organisations that equips their senior people to act as commentators. As we’ve said, journalists are always looking for knowledgeable, well-qualified industry people to provide insightful, expert comments. However, our media trainers are working journalists (under NDAs), and they regularly receive commentary from experts on topical issues that quickly gets deleted. We look at what works in a comment and what doesn’t.
What you say, how you say it and when you comment needs thought and consideration – and that’s what we teach people during our media training courses for tech companies and other organisations.
Find out more about us at Communicate Media today. Contact Us here
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