O2 give a masterclass in how to rise above a social media firestorm
A major social media crisis is always a shocker – the speed at which it can erupt can leave companies and individuals reeling. O2’s has been particularly spectacular – a 2 1/2 day outage affecting hundreds of thousands of customers, who were all left with no or very little coverage. Huge numbers took to social media to try and find out what was happening. Unfortunately, however much they tried, the social team’s updates were mostly typified by no news, and then no news, followed by even more no news, with all the associated outpouring of frustration and anger that you would expect from consumers.
Complete recipe for brand disaster, and yes, this is exactly how it looked on day one, when the emotional monitor showed rising anger, sadness and frustration on social media in pretty much all mentions of O2. There was such a huge negative wave that it reached an estimated 1.7 million people.
Masterclass in managing a social media crisis
Yet against all the odds the mobile phone network managed to turn it around. In fact how they handled it has since proved to be a Masterclass study in social customer service and how to deal with aggression and trolling on Twitter.
How did they do it? They decided to be human.
Rather than just hide behind the barricades just saying “Sorry, no news yet” at intervals, the team went on a mission to answer every single tweet and do it with grace, compassion and above all, humour.
How to be human
Nicola Green, director of communications and reputation for Telefonica, parent company of O2, points out that the approach of O2’s social staff was not new. Instead it was how they are trained and trusted to respond. “This was not a step change for us,” she says. “We had already developed a tone of voice that was: Be human, be functional and also be fun – if you can. We do this, day in, day out, but this was a big moment for us, there were a huge amount of eyes watching us and monitoring the way we responded.”
The light touch worked. Here are some of our favourites, many of which were screen grabbed and reshared to much hilarity across social media.
Facebook was also on fire. More than 7,000 customers commented on O2’s statement regarding the problems.
“We had 200,000 mentions of the blackout on social media. We had to keep on top of that and some of it was not very nice,” says Green. “The important thing was to make sure that we didn’t irritate [our customers].”
O2 was lucky in that it had its social media crisis management plan in place and had practiced a full-scale scenario about a network going down last summer. “We knew who was looking after what and what job everybody would perform,” says Green. “Everybody was involved. We had people from internal communications managing our Facebook account and answering tweets. Nobody said ‘This is not my area’. Every single team member pulled together and performed roles that weren’t in their job descriptions.”
And a good thing too as the O2 Twitter account was inundated. Tweets were coming in at one every second at the height and there was a 4,836 per cent uplift in people talking, replying and retweeting in the Twittersphere. Follower numbers increased by an average of 55 to 13,500 per day after the outage occurred.
It’s also worth pointing out that O2 always integrate their output across all their channels. So online and offline, billboards, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TV ads – whatever the channel, they send the same message with the same tone of voice. Considering there is a huge comms team this is extremely impressive and makes for a very compelling and human persona for what could be a bland and faceless organisation.
All the love
It seems they succeeded in not irritating their customers, and in a most spectacular fashion. The emotional temperature turned as day two progressed, with the majority of tweets expressing ‘love’ for O2 rather than tho ‘anger’ or ‘sadness’ less than 24 hours after the outage occurred.
It also inspired a huge amount of humour, with the tweet which quipped You’ve got 99 contacts and you can’t text one, being retweeted and mentioned at least 37,000 times.
The team is to be praised and frequently were as the outage resolved. Yet they maintained their humanity, and when praised for the handling of the tweets, one O2 social handler simply replied ‘I need a hug.’
Within a week of the situation being resolved, O2 announced a special compensation package for customers directly affected by the network failure. This was equivalent to three days of service, or ten per cent of their monthly charges. All customers, including those unaffected by the disruption, also received a £10 voucher to spend in O2 stores during September.
Says Green: “We are saying thank you to people for bearing with us during this difficult time. We went over and above what we could have given, but we have received a lot of ‘thank you’ tweets which show that this action was valued.”
Want to help with your social media crisis management? You can download our free Social Media Crisis Management Guide, and our Social Media Crisis Management Package can be found here. Or you can give us a ring on +44 203 664 7973.