6 Social Media Lessons From Garmin’s Ransomware Attack

By July 30, 2020

Recently, Garmin came under a ransomware attack that caused issues with device connectivity. Many users turned to social media looking for answers, presenting Garmin with an opportunity that wasn’t quite taken advantage of. Take a look at the aftermath of the attack and my thoughts on what we can learn from this.

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Who Are Garmin?

If you are into outdoor sports (running, cycling or tracking your fitness), you will have heard of Garmin. They are a US-based GPS technology provider in aviation, marine, fitness, outdoor recreation, tracking and mobile apps. Having shipped 220 million products since their inception, they are dominant in many of their markets.

What Happened?

Garmin has been on the receiving end of a ransomware attack that has encrypted the organisation’s internal servers, forcing it to shut down its call centres, website, and the Garmin Connect service, which users rely on to sync their activities via the mobile app.

With complete radio silence from Garmin, their users logged onto social media to find out why they couldn’t access their services. Eventually, an update was shared across their main social media channels, confirming that there was an outage and that Garmin’s customer service channels were down; except for social media that is!

While the update on social media was welcomed by many, others were less pleased about Garmin’s slow response and initial omission of the cause of the outage.

Employee Leaks

Before Garmin’s official update, employees were sharing on social media what was happening inside the company. This was then being shared across social media and picked up by all of the media outlets, with no control from Garmin itself.

While employee leaks were keeping customers updated, this information coming from unofficial Garmin accounts made the organisation look like they had something to hide and were not being honest with their customers.

Key Lessons From Garmin’s Attack

#1: Be Honest, Open and Upfront

The company initially tried to brush off the service outage it as a maintenance issue that was being quickly addressed. As the hours stretched on, it eventually admitted it was suffering an outage that affected almost every consumer-facing area, including its app, site, and even customer support centres.

If you’re honest with your audience from the start, they will be more likely to understand, trust, and engage with you positively on the other side of the issue. Social media equips organisations with a fantastic platform for reaching out to customers in an authentic and transparent way, so make sure you’re using it effectively.

#2: Use Channels That Your Customers are Using

In this case, the channel that customers were using was social media. Issuing press-releases may be a way to keep some of your stakeholders updated. Still, it was not the most effective channel to update customers on.

Determine which platforms your audience is primarily present on, and ensure that your communications strategy focuses on them. There’s no point releasing information in a place where your audience won’t find it!

#3: Control Employee Risk

Most employees want what is best for their organisations and their customers. If employees feel that the organisation is not doing the right things, they may take matters into their own hands. Once this happens, the organisation’s reputation is put into question as both messages should be aligned and ideally published first from official accounts.

As part of the onboarding process, ensure that employees are familiar with your social media policy. Highlight what is and isn’t acceptable by supporting and encouraging healthy employee advocacy on social media.

#4: Time Is Of The Essence

In the world of social media, time is not on your side. Think of social media time as equivalent to dog time; one day on social media is the same as 7 days in the real world. This means that an organisation must be timely and forthcoming with information; there’s no room for lengthy delays.

Take the time to keep your audience regularly informed, even if there is no new information to share. By keeping customers notified, they’ll be more understanding and see you as trustworthy. They also won’t look to unofficial sources for the missing information or even worse, fill the gaps themselves!

#5: Think of Social Media Strategically

Social media is very much a mainstream channel. As it sits outside of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, it can also be relied on to operate even when internal systems go down.

Even if it is not a primary channel of communication for your organisation, it should at least be built into your resilience planning. By doing this, if all other systems of communication go down, your customers know they can still reach you on social media.

#6: Social Media Management Platforms Aid Scaling

As social media is a serious business, platforms like CrowdControlHQ can ensure that there is visibility over all incoming messages in one single inbox that covers all the social media channels. The organisation knows who is working on what, what is outstanding and what responses have been provided together with a detailed history of all previous interactions.

By using social media more strategically with a management platform, you can ensure that every customer question gets answered, updates are published as quickly as possible, and you can navigate the situation more smoothly, protecting your reputation and customer relationships.


No one likes to be ignored, especially on such a public platform as social media. If a customer takes the time to ask you a question, ensure that your communications plan has a process for getting a detailed, helpful answer to that customer as quickly as possible.