Social Media

Lessons Learned from the Facebook Outage

Ron Dawson
min read
Lessons Learned from the Facebook Outage

On Monday, October 4, the internet broke. Literally. Facebook suffered an outage that not only left the social media juggernaut down, but also it’s sister sites Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and even it’s VR gaming platform, Oculus.

It’s one of those events where you remember what you were doing when you first found out. I was trying to watch an Instagram video when I learned about the Facebook outage. Naturally, I first thought that maybe my internet connection was down. (Because of course Instagram wouldn’t be down). Then I went to Facebook to post on my wall and ask my followers if they’ve noticed Instagram was down. Now I was convinced my internet connection was lost. But, Twitter was working. And so was Google. I then realized it was indeed seemingly impossible.

The worst Facebook outage in two years

Facebook experienced the worst outage it’s had since the 2019 outage where it was down for 24 hours! All told, this Instagram and Facebook outage lasted about six hours. But that was six hours of tweets and memes galore as Twitter got a nice shot in the arm with social media traffic diverted there as people sought ways to comment on the Facebook outage. Even UNUM got in on the action.

Facebook’s VP of Infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, shared on the Facebook’s engineering blog that the outage “...was triggered by the system that manages our global backbone network capacity. The backbone is the network Facebook has built to connect all our computing facilities together, which consists of tens of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables crossing the globe and linking all our data centers.”

Once thing's for certain: the repercussions of the outage were massive. Beside that fact that millions of businesses rely on the platforms for revenue, in some countries and continents like Latin America and India, apps like WhatsApp are the basis of their communication foundation.

Given the impact of the outage, we at UNUM wanted to look at the valuable lessons influencers, marketers, and small businesses can take away from the outage.

Lesson #1: be on multiple platforms

One of the ongoing jokes during the day was how excited Twitter was to welcome “literally everyone.”

This is understandable. Facebook and Instagram have about 2.9 billion and 1.4 billion users, respectively. Each of those numbers dwarfs Twitters following of “only” 190 million active users. Because Facebook and Instagram are so ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that there are other platforms worthwhile for your time and attention. Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are the main ones. 

Signal is a cross-platform messaging app that has a focus on privacy. They reported that millions of new sign-ups occurred as a result of the outage.

You never know from where new followers and customers might come. And as we’ve seen, even the biggest of these networks can fail. So it behooves you to do the smart thing and be active on as many of these platforms as possible. (I would be remiss not to mention that UNUM can help you manage your presence on multiple platforms, all from one location. Just sayin’).

Lesson #: jump on social media opportunities quickly

As I alluded to earlier, lots of people took to social media to comment on the incident. Even other major brands got in on the fun. This engagement between Twitter and McDonald’s was one of the funniest.

Twitter engages with McDonald's

Netflix had one of the most clever, using a now iconic moment from it’s world-wide phenomenon show Squid Game.

In addition to the funny memes and interactions, there was social and political commentary about what the outage meant. U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to her social media to comment on whether the outage and its impact on small businesses should be a sign to break up the internet giant.

Whether you were silly or serious, the most savvy social media managers used this opportunity to generate engagement, pick up new followers, and turn a “lemon” situation into “lemonade.”

Ironically, when major social media platforms like this have an outage, it’s an opportunity for users to actually be more social.

Lesson #3: control your own digital outlets

Last and certainly not least, do not have platforms like Facebook and Instagram as your only source for people to interact with your brand. 

  • Your Facebook page should not be your main company page
  • Your Instagram account should not be the only way people can interact with and learn about you
  • YouTube should not be the only “channel” where others can view your videos

It goes without saying that you should use all of these platforms. But please make sure to also have a website domain that you own and control. Use services like Vimeo Business and Wistia to host and distribute your videos (which also give you greater branding control and SEO).

Social media influencer, best-selling author, and digital media entrepreneur Luuvi Ajayi Jones put it perfectly when she shared this on her Instagram.

Luuvi Ajayi Instagram post

Don’t get me wrong, even if you own your own platform, you can still be adversely affected by an outage. Many companies lost thousands of dollars due to the outage. But at least their entire business didn’t go down.

Also, owning your own domain and email list doesn’t make you susceptible to the whims of the algorithms. There are countless stories across the web about people who lost engagement and in some cases revenue due to algorithm changes. 

Whether it’s Facebook changing how posts from pages show up in people’s feeds (you pretty much need to pay for that now, or followers of your page need to manually select to see it, whereas it used to be more organic); to YouTubers and writers on Medium losing large amounts of income due to algorithm changes.

The ultimate type of ownership is when you own the email addresses and/or phone numbers of your followers. This allows you to contact them directly, algorithms notwithstanding. There is no algorithm change that will affect when and how you reach out to your subscribers. So make sure you have and are effectively using an email list.

UNUM to the rescue

The next time there’s a major outage on any of the major social networks, you can at least have the assurance that when the “lights come back on,” you’ll be ready to go with a clever caption and fabulous feed to greet your followers.

Just use UNUM spaces to plan, design, and arrange your feed for all the major social sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and TikTok. Drag and drop images and videos, edit them, then place them where you’d like them to show up in your feed.

When the outage is over, your posts will be planned and ready to publish.

In summary

The great Facebook outage of 2021 was not the first outage of a major internet platform, and it certainly won't be the last. Technology is one of these benefits where when it works, it does wonders; but when it doesn't, it can wreak havoc. The more you can take advantage of those benefits when they're working, and be ready for the downsides when they don't, the better.

October 7, 2021

About the author

Ron Dawson

Ron Dawson

Ron is a seasoned content marketer, filmmaker, podcaster, and published author with over 25 years of experience helping brands tell engaging stories. He's the lead content strategist and owner of Blade Ronner Media and serves as the managing editor of the Story Times blog.

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