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What happens on social media when the spark goes out?

What happens on social media when the spark goes out?

Spark have had a busy few days with their IT gang working overtime trying to sort out the mess after a few nosy kiwis clicked on links which claimed to take viewers to the leaked pictures of celebrities such as Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately the links were fake and many reports suggested Malware was inadvertently installed, creating Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), generating unusually large volumes of traffic to be diverted overseas and rendering the Spark internet service impossibly slow or non-existent for thousands of clients.

The rate at which social media use in business has grown exponentially over the last few years. A couple of years ago Mosh was being asked to do lots of training for small and medium sized businesses in using social media. We still do lots of training but it's often about fire fighting. We have masses of experience in this arena and although there are a few general rules of thumb, each station needs to be treated with the nature of the problem as well as the brand voice in mind.

We were interested to see how Spark would deal with the issue on social media. They utilised their Twitter account well to keep their clients up to date with what was happening. It must have been tempting to ask their customers to blame those who were ferreting out pictures of Cara Delevigne's breasts and not Spark but they kept it chatty and simple with no finger pointing. The brand voice was bang on, not too flip and pretty informative.

It appears as though we're not out of the woods on web browsing issues yet. Thanks for your reports, everyone. The team is on the job.

— Spark (@SparkNZ) September 6, 2014

Our techs have been working through the night to catch and block these issues, but they are dynamic and ongoing. 3/5 #RPT

— Spark (@SparkNZ) September 5, 2014

Such was the excitement, our tiny country made it to the international news stage. Reading through the comments on The Daily Mail Online makes for an amusing insight as to how we are viewed from the other side of the world. From Jacsqat in Sheffield: 'Either the internet provider is really rubbish or the New Zealand people are pathetic after all they are only naked bodies.'

It's true, we do all like to see a bit of flesh from time to time but I'm not sure that makes us pathetic. More interestingly, why is it that only Spark's customers were affected by the Malware? The original link to the images appears to have come from Twitter referencing Jennifer Lawrence. Are only Spark customers interested in naked celebs? Why didn't any other service provider have the same problems?

Here is Spark's answer to that: 'It’s typical that cyber criminals look for clusters of IP addresses to use in any particular denial of service attack. That makes it more likely that these IP addresses belong to the customers of a single ISP – even more likely with a large ISP like Spark.'

Spark have also posted a more detailed description of what happened on their Facebook page. Again their brand voice is pretty good but some archaic practices which just don't sit well with customers these days have crept in. For instance, Spark identified that cyber criminals have been accessing vulnerable customer modems on their network, then go on to state 'Most of these modems were not supplied by Spark and tend to be older or lower-end modems.'

When things go wrong, it's vitally important to be open and get conversations going, looking at solving problems rather than offering up the opportunity for thousands of irritated customers to vent at your defensive efforts on social media.

Spark's reaction brings to mind other flurries of social media around outages and gaffes resulting from human error. Remember US Airways having to deal with a photo of a model of one of their planes being inserted into a woman's vagina on their Twitter feed? UK Telecom O2's community manager put himself at the top of social media news in 2012 with his flip and quirky responses to angry O2 customers.


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