Buffer recommends Hootsuite, “Lethal Generosity” alive and well

Buffer and its Founder/CEO Joel Gascoigne today referred disgruntled customers to their main competitor, Hootsuite. This post discusses this display of “lethal generosity.” For those who don’t know, Buffer is a social media productivity tool allowing users to stock up or fill up a buffer of content to share that will then be disseminated over time on various social media platforms you connect to their service. This way, one’s followers will not be overwhelmed by a number of updates at once followed by complete silence. I have personally found the service useful even if I have not consistently filled up my buffer as of late. Today, I was impressed by the service nonetheless. I got an email from the founder “Joel from Buffer” with an alert about a problem:

From: Joel from Buffer <hello@bufferapp.com>

Subject: Buffer has been hacked – here is what’s going on

Hi there,
I wanted to get in touch to apologize for the awful experience we’ve caused many of you on your weekend. Buffer was hacked around 1 hour ago, and many of you may have experienced spam posts sent from you via Buffer. I can only understand how angry and disappointed you must be right now.

Not everyone who has signed up for Buffer has been affected, but you may want to check on your accounts. We’re working hard to fix this problem right now and we’re expecting to have everything back to normal shortly.

We’re posting continual updates on the Buffer Facebook page and the Buffer Twitter page to keep you in the loop on everything.

The best steps for you to take right now and important information for you:

  • Remove any postings from your Facebook page or Twitter page that look like spam
  • Keep an eye on Buffer’s Twitter page and Facebook page
  • Your Buffer passwords are not affected
  • No billing or payment information was affected or exposed
  • All Facebook posts sent via Buffer have been temporarily hidden and will reappear once we’ve resolved this situation

I am incredibly sorry this has happened and affected you and your company. We’re working around the clock right now to get this resolved and we’ll continue to post updates on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have any questions at all, please respond to this email. 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.

- Joel and the Buffer team

While I respect that some affected customers were upset, I appreciated the fact that his email was how I learned about the problem as it showed that someone was dealing with it and it also suggested practical steps for me to avoid or minimize any damage. I was pleased to be able to quickly verify that I personally had not been affected.

I could also see that they were active with updates on Facebook apologizing for being hacked and that they were doing everything they could to quickly fix the problem. Moreover, one employee actively responded to every single complaint on Twitter with empathic tweets showing that he understood their pain.

So far, this represents good, but by today’s standards hardly amazing, crisis management. They are “simply” transparently sharing what they are doing about the problem at the same time as they show that they understand the gravity of the situation. It should also be noted that this organization of only 13 employees have the capacity to deal with this situation even on a Saturday.

However, one single tweet response from the founder stood out in its display of so-called “Lethal Generosity,” Shel Israel’s 2008 expression for the sharing information of true value to your customers regardless of whether it may also help your competitors in the process. Isn’t the following exchange sweet? You’ll be the judge:

This reminds me of a story Seth Godin shared at a Linked Orange County event about a London Coffee shop, Prufrock Coffee, offering a disloyalty card whereby you would get a complimentary coffee if you could prove that you had tried coffee at eight East London competitors listed with names and address on the card. Perhaps this example is also showing that the generosity ideas espoused by Adam Grant in his book “Give and Take” are catching on.

What do you think? Do you think it pays off to refer customers to your competitors? Would you do it? Under what circumstances? Would your boss be supportive?


  1. says

    I’m the dude in the tweet referenced above and, yes, I agree that it was a fantastic, honest response. Once the dust settles, I’ll be a Buffer user again – almost exclusively because of Gascoigne’s approach to this unfortunate mess.

    • says

      Good to hear your take on it, Ef, and your follow-up tweet showing your willingness to forgive is also worth repeating: @pug: “@joelgascoigne I’m scared, Joel. And I’m acting irrationally. Perhaps I need a warm glass of milk and a nap. #buffpocalypse”

  2. jon_mitchell_jackson says

    Niklas- Great timely post and discussion. I remember seeing this series of tweets yesterday and am glad someone (especially an expert) share your thoughts on what happened. Joel’s tweet built trust. It was real and transparent. Disgruntled consumers could have and maybe even did Google for alternatives. I’m sure this tweet and I’m assuming similar emails and conversations by other company representatives mirrored this approach. If so, confidence is built (“we’ll get this handled”) and trust is built (we’re looking out for you so in the meantime, here are several options…”) is the best way to go.

    Long ago we set up a Pinterest site of firms we respect and recommend. Many we even compete with. But you know what, they’re good at what they do and the consumer deserves to know about them. It’s just the right thing to do. Now that I’ve read your post, I’m going to add a page at our website with a list of recommended firms in different areas of law. I want people to know that if we can help them then we’ll tell them so. If we can’t, not only will we tell them but we’ll even share a list of names, numbers, and websites to help them get their problems solved and that they can trust. BTW, here’s our Pinterest site recommending our competition (need to update and add many more :-)

    Has this Pinterest page costs us business? Maybe but I kind of doubt it. Is it the right way to help people who are looking for good legal solutions. I think so. It’s our pleasure and just the right thing to do.

    • says

      Thanks Mitch for the validation of these ideas based on your experiences and I am impressed by your Pinterest page endorsing competitors. Perhaps, it is in line with the trend of not even using the word competitor like Mike Stelzner at Social Media Examiner said when I interviewed him: “I don’t think of anyone as competition, I think of coopetition. Cooperate even if you are a competitor, I have always had that model” (http://www.newniklasmyhr.wpengine.com/confessions-of-a-pure-play-publisher/).

      What makes this particular incident extra noteworthy is that Joel’s endorsement of Hootsuite came at the very lowest of low points for this still small tech company.

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