What Rogers’ Nationwide Cell Outage Can Teach Us About Social Media Crisis Communications

Last Updated: January 18, 2020

It’s almost 7PM here. We’ve been without cell service for over 2 hours. People are FREAKING OUT! Rogers, one of the three cell service providers in Canada has had a nation-wide outage and Twitter has erupted!

Here are three quick social media crisis communication lessons we can learn from their fail:

Prioritize situation updates

Make a switch to crisis mode – Rather than trying to respond to everyone, or even a small portion of the tweets, comments, posts and so forth – focus on providing relevant, timely information. The network is down? Fine, then let your customers know what you are doing about it right now. Treat it as a “developing story” and provide situation updates as they happen.

Carnival Cruise Lines did an excellent job with their social media PR during the 7 day “poop cruise”. They kept media and travellers’ families updated through Twitter and Facebook every step of the way. The CEO even created a status update video, which was shared on their YouTube “news” channel.


Turn Twitter into a crisis hotline

At 6:30PM, RogersHelps was still inviting people to DM them to solve problems – in the midst of a torrent of incoming tweets. In fact, they were trending at #1 Canada-wide because of the amount of tweets.

Rogers Outage Trending Twitter

If you were to take away mobile service – the first place most tech-savvy people will turn to is Twitter. There will be a flood of negative, silly or downright stupid tweets, but it’s where your customers expect to hear from you. Turn Twitter into a crisis hotline and provide situation updates there. You may even consider updating the bio to reflect the situation, and changing it back once the crisis is over.

Many of the tweets were asking basically the same questions – so consider creating an online resource where you can point them to. In this case, having a page on “what to do if you need to dial 911” would be smart thing to share.


Open a vent on Facebook

The next place we’ll go is likely Facebook. At the time of this writing there are over 800 comments on a single (and crappy) post the Rogers social media team shared about 2 hours into the outage. Turn Facebook into a newsroom and share the latest updates on what you are doing to solve the problem. Or even just letting customers know what the problem is in the first place.

Let customers share their situation and vent their frustration there and embrace it. It’s better than having someone create an I Hate Rogers page.

Most regular users rarely click on the “recent posts by others” section, and even the comments on your own post get clipped to show just a few. So embrace the discussion and respond to what you can within the post itself. Consider directing customers to the online resource discussed above.


Have a crisis plan ready

Most organizations are caught off guard when a crisis happens. And that’s normal. However, you can be prepared by having a “red folder” ready that clearly outlines what you should do in case of an emergency or crisis. Jay Baer wrote an excellent post on managing a social media crisis. Read it. Then put together a plan so when shit hits the fan you will at least know what to do. Rather than being pointed out as another PR fail.


Hope that helps… and I hope our service comes back soon.

– ernest