Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all went offline for a huge six hours yesterday, leaving many businesses unable to stay in touch with their customers, or run ads through social media.
The issue has since been resolved, with Facebook confirming that the issue was an internal one, with no threat to security, but with almost a whole working day lost to the outage, what should businesses do next time it happens (and if history is anything to go by, it definitely will happen again) ?
We've gathered some tips for businesses who don't want to be left in the cold during the next outage, including the benefits of diversifying your communication platforms and email marketing.
What Happened to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram?
On Monday morning, many users in the US had the start of their week severely disrupted when key social media platforms, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all went down. They wouldn't return to normal for more than six hours, with the issues affecting both mobile and desktop versions of the services.
In a post on the Facebook's engineering blog, the company stated that the outage was due to ‘configuration changes':
Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt. – Facebook blog post
The company also stated that the issues was an internal, technical one, and that no platforms had been breached, and user data was secure.
Facebook also acknowledged the impact that the outage had on both users and businesses who rely on its social media platforms:
People and businesses around the world rely on us everyday to stay connected. We understand the impact outages like these have on people’s lives, and our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services. We apologize to all those affected, and we’re working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient.
Although outages of this nature are rare, they're not uncommon. While the six hour window users experienced yesterday was an extremely bad case, there have been numerous previous instances of down time, which even huge social media giants such as Facebook can't avoid, so it's best to be prepared for when they happen.
What to do When Your Social Media Platforms Go Offline
It can be quite daunting when your social media platforms disappear without warning. For many businesses, they're the first point of contact with customers, a valuable way to spread information about products and services, as well as updates on what's happening with your company. Some even rely on them as the shop front for their businesses. So when they're suddenly not available, panic can set in.
- Check where the fault is
Firstly, it's important not to panic — yes, even if you had a really good, on-brand meme that you were about to get out there. Make sure that the issue is with the provider's platform. Check on other devices and accounts, and use a sit like ‘Is It Down?' to check the status of the platform.
- Use other social media platforms for ads and posts
Most companies have a preferred social media platform that most of its customers favor and prove to be most engaged on, but it's vitally important to have an omni-channel approach to social media, especially when one of them goes down unexpectedly. If, for example, Facebook is offline, use other platforms, such as Twitter, to communicate with customers, run ads, and keep in touch. If you currently operate from just one social media platform, now is the time to invest in another one too. Don't wait until the next outage!
- Be ready when the platform comes back online
When the site comes back online, be sure to post something with a small update for your customers. Feel free to reference the outage (after all, some may not even have been aware of it), and assure them that everything is up and running again.
- Reconsider time sensitive social media messages
If the outage happens to land when you are halfway through a promotion or a competition or similar, consider extending the deadline to reflect this. If you were running a one-day special offer for a product, and customers were either unaware of it or unable to claim, showing some goodwill here will go a long way. You may also attract more interest by giving customers a larger window.
- Schedule your posts
It's a good idea to use some form of social media management tool to keep track of what is being posted and when, and even during downtime, these will allow you to schedule posts for when the service is back online.
Stay in Touch with Your Customers Through Email
While social media platforms provide an instant connection with customers, an effective way to run paid and unpaid marketing activity, and allow for a quick two-way dialogue, it's important not to disregard other forms of comms, such as email. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp might have been down yesterday, but email remains as dependable and robust as ever.
When sending emails, you can be assured that you are reaching out to your core audience, and you can carefully tailor your messaging to address specific customers, compared to the more general approach you might need to take with social media. You're also not limited to word counts of course, so can get into a bit more detail about your products and services. Plus, you'll be sending your message directly to your customers inbox, and not having to compete with the sea of voices on a social media feed (although you'll still need to come up with a compelling subject line to make sure your email gets opened!)
Coming up with that killer email can be tricky, but there are plenty of email marketing platforms out there that can help you get it right. You've probably heard of some of them already, such as Mailchimp, but there is plenty of choice, and you can find some great deals depending on the platform. There are even some that will let you use their services for free.
We don't recommend ditching social media for email – a good business has multiple ways to stay in touch with its customers, and a solid email marketing strategy can compliment other communication methods, and bring with it many benefits. We've researched the best email marketing platforms in the industry and come up with our top picks.
Maximum monthly emails
All-in-one marketing solution
Overall value for money
Pure email marketing platform
Value for basic email marketing features
$25/mo – $755/mo
$3/mo – $375/mo
$8/mo – $760/mo
$9.99/mo – $1190/mo
$10/mo – $1915/mo
$50/mo – $3920/year
$15/mo – $580/mo
$9/mo – $505/mo
$9/mo – $989/mo
3 million (possible to increase this with a bespoke plan)
5 (can be increased by contacting customer service)
5 (can be increased to 10 on a bespoke plan)
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