The popular social sharing startup Buffer had a difficult Saturday today when it got hacked and spam relating to weight loss was posted from user accounts. The Buffer team swung into action pretty quickly and, in a well-executed crisis management playbook, executed a best practice plan for handling the crisis. I discovered the hack at 2:38 pm when Heather Dopson, social media manager of Infusionsoft, alerted me that I had a spam status update on my Facebook wall
All the official Twitter accounts and the team Twitter accounts updated the users often, responding one by one to questions on Twitter. Here is what Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, posted immediately after the hack was discovered.
Looks like @buffer has been hacked and there is a nasty scam being posted. We’re pausing all posting and investigating right now. Sorry!
— Joel Gascoigne (@joelgascoigne) October 26, 2013
They alerted the Buffer user community on Facebook to the issue and pointed them to the blog.
All users got a message in their Buffer dashboard so that they could take action and remove any spam posts sent.
Users got an email with a clear subject line – “Buffer has been hacked – here is what's going on” – and what actions users needed to take. They also pointed users to Twitter and Facebook for updates.
Gascoigne also posted an update on the Buffer culture blog about user steps to resolve this.
The fact that a startup with a staff of only 13 people could do all this within two hours and also take proactive measures to handle the crisis says a lot about the hard work that startups do to succeed. Buffer will be a great case study to look at after the crisis is resolved. This was a well-executed crisis management plan, and I am not going anywhere from Buffer – and a lot of other users also sent their support to Buffer in social media sites.
The way @buffer is handling today's hack should be a case study for crisis communications. Fast, transparent, honest, & genuine. Well done.
— Joe Scannell (@Joe_Scannell) October 26, 2013
Great job @Buffer for keeping your users informed during this difficult time. A model for how it should be done. :-)
— Mark Strauss (@TOGOMedia) October 26, 2013
— Vicki's Voice (@VickisVoiceTV) October 26, 2013
@buffer good luck guys – so sorry. This user stands behind you guys. Can't imagine how difficult this will be.
— Ron Bercume (@ronbercume) October 26, 2013
At the time of writing, the issue was still being investigated by Buffer. Gascoigne posted:
“If you have any questions at all, please ask in the comments below or email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Understandably, a lot of people have emailed us, so we might take a short while to get back to everyone, but we will respond to every single email.”
What a great spirit promising a response to everyone. Good customer service even to free users. If your startup does not have a plan for crisis management, you should have one yesterday. What do you think of the way Buffer handled the crisis?