On Wednesday, March 13th, Facebook (and its subsidiaries, Instagram and WhatsApp) went down for the most extended outage in its history. Lasting over 24 hours, it left users frustrated and marketers in a panic, as they were unable to turn off campaigns or adjust budgets, resulting in potentially millions of misspent dollars. Reportedly, some advertisers even paid more for some ads “due to erratic activity in the ad auctions.”
Companies - especially smaller ones - lost valuable lines of communication to their consumers and the general public, potentially limiting an entire day’s worth of revenue. For small businesses, that hurts.
Long story short, it was a complete mess for everyone involved.
So while we all hope (Zuckerberg forbid) that another outage of this magnitude will never happen again, there are certain things marketers can do to prepare for another social media disaster.
Let this outage be a lesson to any marketer who relies solely on social media marketing. Technology is constantly improving and evolving but it's far from perfect and mistakes (crashes, algorithm errors, etc.) will happen. By diversifying your media mix, you can reroute budget and pivot your strategy according to what platform will perform best to make up for lost revenue and impression share if/when a major platform goes down.
When emergency strikes, it’s imperative to adjust and acclimate. Knowing exactly what you would do in certain scenarios ahead of time enables you to quickly develop short-term action plans, mitigating your (or your client’s) losses during any foreseeable crisis.
Create a depth chart of alternatives and know what other avenues you can use to reach your consumers. For example, Snap may be an underutilized platform when it comes to social media advertising, even though its users, functionality and revenue/ad model are similar to Facebook’s. Marketers can easily replicate ad copy, creative assets, targeting parameters and other campaign settings from Facebook to Snap with ease.
Lean on your strategic partners, such as your agency or platform representatives, to stay up-to-date on the situation. Get a formal statement directly from the source, come up with solutions and talk through the financial implications. For example, during the Facebook outage, many were wondering if their ads were still serving impressions worldwide and if they were paying for those impressions.
For agencies, having a formal statement and mitigation plan directly from the platform is a great way to alleviate stakeholder concerns in the short-run and move forward with your contingency plans for the duration of the technology failure. In addition to addressing FAQ’s for the current situation, it sets the stage for innovation and continued success in the long-run.
Ecommerce websites are always on, and their marketing needs to be, too. When one major platform (or multiple platforms, as was the case this time around) goes dark, it’s up to the marketer to figure out how to keep the marketing machine funneling traffic to the website.
Unfortunately, technology has not evolved to a point where mistakes, crashes or hacks are no longer a threat. This time, it was two social networks and a messaging service. Next time, it could be your email service provider or your CMS. So, until the time of tech failures is behind us, cover your bases - and your bottom-lines - by taking the necessary steps to be prepared for the next outage.
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Jeeyan is Hawke Media's VP of Marketing. He's managed millions in media dollars, but also enjoys collecting sneakers, eating food, talking about business and hanging out with cats.