Crisis Marketing: Leveraging Social Media

Your service is offline for tens of thousands of people, your phone support queue is in the hundreds (if it’s even still up), and you can’t tell customers when anything is coming back, or what caused it. Welcome to crisis marketing on social media.


Done right, managing a crisis with the power of social media can be some of the most impactful and memorable marketing you can do. Here’s some things to keep in mind when confronting one of these challenging situations:

  1. Obvious, but needs to be said: be honest about the situation. If you aren’t permitted to be honest, consider dusting off your resume.
  2. Make sure your human voice comes through. It’s a lot harder for someone to be mean when they know there’s a real person on the other side trying to help.
  3. Avoid corporate speak at all costs, and put canned responses in the nearest trash receptacle immediately. Nothing looks worse on your brand than page full of the same copy-pasted reply.
  4. Communicate what’s happened, what you currently know, and what is being done in that moment to improve the situation.
  5. Provide updates as things develop as this will show your audience that a resolution is your top priority.
  6. Check in frequently with people who are working on the solution to the actual issue. They may have updates that the public would benefit from knowing, but could be so focused on their objective that they aren’t even thinking about what the public needs to hear.
  7. Harness the power of threading posts where you can. This will help contain the issue in one place, and makes it easy for people to see how proactive and transparent you have been throughout the crisis.
  8. Invite people who are reaching out directly for information to also follow your main thread/post for additional updates.
  9. If you don’t have an update on the situation, and it’s been awhile since your last one: say so publicly. It’s as simple as “We don’t have any new information right now, but we’ll share more here as soon as we do”. This tells customers that you haven’t forgotten about them.
  10. If the situation permits, poke fun at yourself and your brand. Being self-deprecating is a good way to show humility.
  11. Don’t shy away from addressing customers complaints publicly. If you can’t provide a solution or an update that instant, say as much, and take necessary steps to get answers and follow up.
  12. Ensure you have a consistent message between team members, and processes in place for handling put-out customers and media inquiries. For example, whether your company will compensate customers for any down time is a business decision that needs to made well in advance of a service outage.
  13. When the storm passes, don’t sweep it under the rug. Your team should be interested in reviewing what happened, how to mitigate the risk of it happening again, and how you can do even better next time.

Crisis Marketing 101

Transparency: Your Best Friend

In Canada, we have a body known as the CRTC (i.e., FCC). One day long ago they decreed that internet service was too important to be monopolized by a few companies. This meant that big companies like Rogers, Bell and Cogeco would have to make their infrastructure available to companies who could purchase bandwidth in bulk and in turn build their own onramp to the internet. The theory was that this would give Canadians options for their internet service, while keeping pricing in check.

It’s all worked to a certain extent, and independent internet providers like, TekSavvy and others started establishing themselves as legitimate alternatives to the big players. The thing is, the “incumbents” as they’re known, still own the infrastructure. They still do the installations when you sign up for a new service, and they still service all the lines that keep us connected.

This of course means that when there was an internet outage we’d generally be at the mercy of Rogers, Bell or Cogeco to resolve it. Information from them tends to move pretty slow, too. Customers are the opposite. Most waited a little while for things to come back up. But after about ten agonizing minutes without internet, there were always plenty that would pick up the phone – and some of these outages went on for hours. Hundreds of people calling simultaneously can clog up and take down a phone system, leaving customers even more frustrated than before. As a result, many would turn to social media looking for information.

Rogers famously (famously!) would rarely publish anything regarding outages. In the times they did, it could be hours after it began. This is where I always saw the opportunity. Short of being able to whip out a magic wand and shout ‘reparo!’, we’d go onto our social media channels and be open and honest about what was happening. It seemed logical.

Crisis Marketing: When to Act

You always knew when there was an outage, even before the network team could tell you (Friday afternoons seemed to be particularly vulnerable for some reason!). Out of nowhere, Twitter notifications would begin popping up on my phone saying ‘jimslunch9543 is now following you!’. One after another, non-stop.

Growing Your Following During a Crisis

In a funny way, I kind of looked forward to outages, because within the span of a few hours of an outage we could genuinely add a few hundred followers on Twitter. It was kind of cheating, but keeping them as followers had something to do with how we engaged during these times of crises.

Social Media: The Frontlines of Crisis Marketing

If there’s one thing about human nature, it’s how we routinely take things for granted and how quickly we miss them the second they’re gone. Internet service is no exception. With our feeds blowing up, and inboxes filling up (and phone system often going down) social media became the front lines of communication. It usually started with us acknowledging an outage. Simply going on the record when the big players wouldn’t won us a lot of points:

Crisis Marketing: Acknowledge

It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? The puzzling part is why Rogers wouldn’t. I understand spot outages affecting a small area, but we’re talking about all of Southern Ontario, or even the entire province at times. Millions of people impacted.

In one of the extended outage, customers were getting really impatient. It was a Friday night, and the reliance on streaming services, and not being able to access them, was not a good combination. Gaming too.

The problem we routinely ran into is that we couldn’t get a lot of information to share with our customers, and so we’d start by at least acknowledging the outage and promising update the thread as soon as we knew more.

Eventually we’d get an update through the backend network channels from the incumbent responsible for fixing the issue. This information would make it’s way through our team and we’d have an update sent out through out channels:

Crisis Marketing: Engage

Often these updates were infrequent and it seemed like it took forever for them to come. With the big players silent, customers relying on their cell connections, we tried to keep things light and fun:

You can see, the engagement and feedback from customers during these times was generally very appreciative and positive. They’d even go as far as to tag the competition, which happened frequently enough to get the attention of their social/support teams (and whose hands were probably tied pretty tightly on what they could and couldn’t say).

Crisis Marketing: The Payoff

In one of the biggest outages that went on for hours and hours netted us some mainstream press coverage. This is the definition of earned media, and was always a great feeling to see your efforts get amplified to a much wider audience.

“This evening some customers that use third-party internet providers may have experienced a disruption in their services,” a Rogers Communications spokesperson told Global News in a statement late Wednesday evening.

“All services are back up and running now, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”

The announcement comes hours after TekSavvy said there were issues affecting customers throughout the province due to a problem with the Rogers network. said the outage affected its network too.

It was through this level of transparency that we were able to elevate the brand during some of the most challenging times for the team. The company was already loved by its customers for it’s no-nonsense, simplified (and fair) pricing, but these efforts earned us a lot more attention from potential customers, within an industry that was long famous for dismal customer service.


About Michael

Hello, I’m Michael Micacchi, and for twenty years I have been providing digital marketing services that help grow businesses into brands in the modern marketing world.

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