Apple Not Getting the iMessage: Outages and User Rages Run Rampant

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In the late morning of November 18, Apple’s iMessage went down. This isn’t the first time the Apple cloud service has stopped working, but it brought a similar rash of irritated, annoyed, and downright angry tweets. According to Big Fruit, the outage ended around 4 pm Pacific Time that same day, but morning reports from November 19 showed this wasn’t the case for many users; Apple seems to be out of touch with its own service, or at least keeping mum on the status. This outage probably won’t lead to a landscape littered with broken iPhones and lineups for competitor Google or Samsung phones, but there’s a lesson here for content marketers: know your audience.

“Working” Is an Ambiguous Term

Reports flooded in about iMessage and Facetime problems on the first day of the outage, with users frustrated at the sudden return to green-colored text messages instead of familiar blue. The company was quick to address the issues and as of midday November 19, the Apple Cloud Status page read “all services are online.”

Users, meanwhile, disagreed. Just before noon, users began experiencing problems again, ranging from all-out message failure to slow service or the need for repeated attempts to send. As of this writing there has been no response from Apple, despite rapidly increasing ire from users. Some Twitter posters, for example, started using the hashtag #donewithyouiphone to express their displeasure.

There are two problems at work here: first, user desire for a perfect service and second, company response. Despite the impossibility of any technology service working 100 percent of the time (ask Amazon about their cloud, for example), consumers expect near-perfect uptime and always will. But couple this with staying quiet on known issues – or worse yet, having an “everything’s ok” status page when nothing is – and a recipe for disaster emerges.

Calm, Collected, but Not Content

While it’s wise not to engage in any sort knock-down, drag-out fight on Twitter or Facebook – Michael O’Leary, CEO of European airline Ryanair, learned the hard way in September when he called passengers idiots after a negative Facebook post – companies need to at the very least engage with consumers if something goes wrong.

Think about it from a content marketing perspective; a recent Business 2 Community article mentions several common mistakes by marketers, among them an inability to tie the “real world” to their content. For Apple, ignoring (or just not being fast enough to respond) to continuing issues with their service not only makes them look a little foolish but doesn’t do any favors for customer satisfaction. Companies looking to create relevant, timely content can’t do so in a vacuum – discounting real world issues is a surefire way to annoy or anger customers.

Making light of recent Superstorm Sandy, for example, backfired for American Apparel. Their ads for for a “Sandy Sale” with tag lines like “this storm blows, but free shipping on all orders doesn’t” caused a huge Twitter backlash. Apparently tweeps weren’t jazzed on the idea of the clothing manufacturer trying to sell T-shirts to the homebound, especially considering more than 8 million people ended up without power, let alone Internet service.

Pay Attention

Apple’s iMessage misstep shores up an important point for content marketers: content without comprehension of the bigger picture is trouble waiting to happen. If a mistake gets made, corrections need to be made quickly and consistently. Apologies are always a better course than ignorance.

Cloud services at Big Fruit won’t be down for long, and many iDevice users will go back to being blissfully unaware of potential infrastructure issues. Marketers, meanwhile, can choose to ignore Apple’s example or learn from it: consumer opinion travels faster than content.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons





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