Salesforce #NA14 Crisis: Why Social Listening Matters

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Prior to social media, when faced with an issue, customers had little recourse beyond the phone, and marketers were somewhat limited in real-time listening. Today’s opportunity cost can be measured in unanswered tweets and reactive communication.

“The Salesforce outage reminds us just how much relationships matter,” says Robin Simkins, senior vice president of marketing at Cision. “Marketers must ensure their brands are engaged in ongoing real dialogue with customers and partners. Lean toward oversharing to build trust and earn good will.”  

When facing criticism, perhaps even more so than accepting praise, you can own the issue and connect with a critic. Jay Baer, author of “Hug Your Haters,” counsels, “haters are not your problem, ignoring them is.”

Salesforce: there’s a silver lining.

KC Brown, senior vice president of product at Cision, reminds us that “you can easily find your vocal users and influencers, and gain insight into how much people depend on you. The scariest thing would be if they went down and nobody cared.”

The #NA14 Crisis

Salesforce’s outage started early Tuesday morning during a scheduled site switch to the NA14 (North America 14) instance. The new server infrastructure had issues shortly thereafter for about two hours, then worked fine until about 10 a.m. ET. At that point, the system failed completely and Twitter erupted with complaints.

Curious about the impact on brand?

We examined a sample of social data and estimate that 198,000 posts appeared during the outage (May 10-11) that mentioned NA14 (or #NA14) and 1.6 million posts mentioned Salesforce. The NA14 issues peaked at 4 p.m. ET on May 10 (more than 10,000 posts mentioned issues with the system).

Per the chart below, NA14 accounts for a mere 1.57 percent of all Salesforce instances, yet the outage yielded a hefty 11 percent of all brand mentions at the peak of the crisis:

Salesforce NA14_RS

You could argue the Salesforce risk was higher due to the level of public awareness, but social listening is imperative, regardless of your size and vulnerability to a far-reaching crisis.

Given the recent Salesforce NA14 crisis, we’ve mapped out actionable steps for a potential crisis. If it can happen to Salesforce…

Go Beyond The Numbers

Social listening can tell you more than the number of posts that appeared, or the potential reach of an issue. You can uncover key learnings about what is being said, and what it ultimately means to your brand’s reputation. Social insights help brands make smarter decisions in a crunch.

“Social data provides context to connect the dots,” says Michelle Vangel, vice president of insight solutions at Cision. “Not only how many people saw, but who saw and who matters? What drove engagement and interaction? What did people think and, ultimately, what behaviors were driven.”

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Be Prepared

How? If you have a product update or product launch, plan to start listening weeks in advance so you can a) establish a baseline to compare results against and b) be prepared in the event things go awry.

Listening Won’t Stop A Crisis

Social listening won’t stop a crisis from happening. However, if done right, it will inform strategic and tactical decision making.

On a normal day, Salesforce is mentioned in 30,000-50,000 tweets an hour. During the peak of the NA14 outage, those volumes reached more than 100,000 tweets an hour.

When you have a sense of what people are saying about your brand in the moment, you can craft stronger communications with messages that resonate with key audiences.

Know How (And When) To Respond

If you react before you have the proper context, you could make the issue worse. Listening on social will help you understand the discussion surrounding the crisis so you can determine how best to act – or whether you need to act at all. In this example, Salesforce chose to respond to the crisis.

“As a Salesforce client, we felt confident the situation would be resolved because of their transparent communication,” says Paul Salay, Cision’s chief commercial officer. “Yet, through social listening, we heard a lot of folks who didn’t agree with us. This discrepancy underscores the importance of an omni-channel approach, especially during a crisis. Getting your brand’s message out to all audiences across all channels ensures your message is heard loud and clear.”


Although we have two ears and one mouth, listening isn’t all that easy – unless you have the right social media listening tools in place. #NA14 offers a learning moment to ensure you are on the pulse of your brand’s reputation and integrity. Are you prepared?

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Image via Salesforce


About Michelle Dziuban

Michelle Dziuban is the Social Media Manager for Cision, where she has worked since 2012. With a background in marketing and advertising, she loves keeping tabs on emerging industry trends. Most recently, she appeared on one of the most popular marketing podcasts in the world, Jay Baer’s Social Pros Podcast (How B2B’s Can Rock Facebook Live Video) and authored a byline on CMO.Com (What CMO’s Need to Know About Live-Streaming). In her free time, Michelle enjoys yoga, running and being outdoors. Find her on Twitter @dziubs.

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