Research in Motion, the company behind the popular BlackBerry service which has now suffered four days of service outages, could be expected to have used social media platforms more effectively to communicate about the system problems and the impact on users.

One of the most widespread criticisms to come out of this week’s outages has been the poor communication from RiM as users around the world have become increasingly frustrated.

“With every form of social media carrying both fact and opinion about the BlackBerry outage, I would have expected Research in Motion to make better use of the medium to contain brand damage,” says local social media and reputation management specialist Dianne Bayley. “In an age where users turn to social media platforms to discuss brands and issues like this outage, communication and reputation management is both vital and simple to effect.

“Both Facebook and Twitter conversations indicated that users were not satisfied with RiM’s communications with them and many were discussing alternatives to BlackBerry.

“I believe that clear and constant communications would have limited dissatisfaction to the issue at hand, rather than allowing users to begin discussing ‘ditching’ their BlackBerrys.”

Meanwhile, the lack of access to BlackBerry services has had a major impact on loyal users who depend on the provider for e-mail, instant messaging and internet access.

“The impact has been felt by users who rely on the service for business and social communication. In South Africa alone, more than 1.5 million users of the services are likely to have been affected,” says Frost & Sullivan’s ICT senior research analyst Vitalis Ozianyi, “The main impact of the failure to Research In Motion (RIM) is likely to be felt if potential new users opt for alternative devices and services in the market.”

“It is clear that RiM lacked reliable fail over mechanisms to backup switching systems. This was bound to happen if RIM does not have a cluster of systems to manage global communications.”

It is important to note that users of the services do not have an immediate alternative option. It is not possible for users to take up alternative devices and providers offering similar services to BlackBerry, without losing communication with established BlackBerry contacts. This especially applies to the BlackBerry instant messaging service, Ozianyi adds.

The positive outcome of the failure of BlackBerry service to the industry is the possibility of opening discussions on interoperability between instant messaging services offered on different platforms and providers.

“The solution to the problem would be immediate restoration of services to allow delivery of queued messages to users,” Ozianyi. “RIM needs to expedite this to avoid further user inconvenience and potential churn.”