The latest social media darling, foursquare, ran into trouble this week when its entire site went down for more than a dozen hours over two days. All the big social networks have faced outages, so it’s certainly a common problem such sites will inevitably face. What separates foursquare from the herd, though, is the very savvy way the site handled its crisis public relations. To understand this, we’ll analyze fourquare’s apology and highlight the key quotes.
• “We’re really sorry.” WHAT? A big media-related company actually apologizing for its actions, instead of blaming its fans and users for its problems? Yes, believe it with foursquare. The smartest crisis PR step toward redemption is to apologize for your faults, and to do so in simple and clear terms.
• “What happened.” With the toughest part of crisis PR out of the way, foursquare next gives a technical, but digestible, explanation of the database error that caused the site’s malfunction. Sometimes an organization uses their explanation to hit stakeholders over the head, thinking that getting all high-and-mighty with technical smarts will distract everyone until the fire is extinguished. That’s almost always a bad move, and smacks of arrogance. In this case, foursquare takes time and care to give a straight-forward explanation of the error, which humanizes the site’s operators and makes the reader think, “hey, this could happen to anyone.”
• “What we’ll be doing differently.” Don’t you love the nice titles in the foursquare apology? Serves as good guideposts to get the reader through to the most important points. The apology and explanation are only part of the crisis public relations drill; you also have to explain how things will change going forward. This reassures skeptical foursquare users and anyone else with a stake in the site’s success. And, setting up independent feeds and sites to keep users updated on status alerts shows discipline in the re-engineering process.
Because of this very well written apology, foursquare will continue to set the standard compared to other location-based competition. And, judging from the overwhelming positive foursquare user comments to the blog post apology, the site earned tremendous goodwill and will live to see another day. Bravo to the foursquare PR team!