What to Do When a Social Network Goes Down

Pamela Seaton
April 3, 2019

You log into Facebook and it’s not working. You refresh the page, log in and out of the app, reinstall the app and still, no dice. That’s the problem many people faced last month when a platform-wide outage occurred across Facebook’s services, including WhatsApp and Instagram.

On March 14th, the next day, Facebook released a statement saying that a server change led to the outage, causing users to see partially loaded pages or no content at all across platforms. While casual users may have considered it a blip on the radar, some advertisers reported losing thousands of dollars in revenue during the outage, while others spent hundreds more for placement than they normally would. An Ad Age article described it as “chaos,” with Facebook Ads Manager rendered useless after 12 p.m. that day.

For influencer marketing, which often takes the form of sponsored Instagram posts running alongside other social ads, the day was also a loss — but in a different way. When influencers sign a contract with brands, they often include a clause under “force majeure,” according to The Verge, which states that in the event of an unforeseen circumstance, like an outage, they are allowed to reschedule their posts. However, if the posts were shared immediately before the outage, they were likely susceptible to lower visibility, which hurt the brands backing them and caused a dip in engagements. On an outlier day like March 13th, deals may have also been made via DMs, which are not the best circumstances and could have ultimately been stalled in the glitch.

In short, advertisers were having a bad day.

Though Facebook has vowed to take steps to prevent this from happening again, what can you do to ensure that your message is heard, even if servers go down?

Turn to Different Messaging Apps for Communication or Contracts

If you’re looking to close a deal with an influencer or reach a partner whom you typically chat with on social, use other apps to communicate. Telegram, a UK-based messaging app, saw 3 million sign-ups during the outage on March 13th. While Pavel Durov, the app’s founder, couldn’t explicitly link the sign-up surge with the outage, he did take pride in the achievement and took a swipe at Facebook at the same time.

You could also consider other messaging apps like Viber, WeChat or LINE.

Don’t Forget Email Marketing (or Email, for That Matter) Exists

Before Facebook became the most used social platform on the planet, where the average user spends up to 41 minutes per day, email marketing was and still is one of the best ways to reach customers, build relationships and increase sales. Whenever you make an online purchase or sign up for a newsletter, one of the first things you expect is an email confirming that action—and there’s plenty of room within that to make your presence known and share your input.

If there’s another outage or you somehow can’t access social channels, you can still reach audiences via email, letting them know that you’re aware of the issue and that your promotions are still available, or to send customers a quick shoutout, asking them to come visit your store during the meantime. Further incentivizing it by offering additional price reductions or a “gift with purchase” may be worth your while.

Schedule Ads Early or Prepare to Spend More

With Facebook Ads Manager inaccessible for nearly 20 hours, many advertisers were faced with a difficult choice: either spend more or don’t be seen at all. David Herrmann, cofounder of the ad agency Social Outlier who typically oversees $400,000 in ad spend daily, said one of his clients saw a 95 percent decrease in sales during the outage, while another paid $270 for ads that typically cost $30 — an 800 percent increase.

To avoid this, you can always schedule your ads beforehand. Each major platform allows you to place ads in draft mode until they’re approved, either by the client or the platform itself. Brands who have promotions on weekends, holidays or after hours often do this, ensuring that ads run on time without having someone to physically launch them. You can even schedule your ads down to the exact hour, if the promotion in question is only in place during a specific timeframe or you wish to target audiences at certain hours of the day with dayparting (which is up to your discretion). 

While there’s no promise that users won’t face a similar outage again, you can take comfort in knowing your pockets won’t suffer greatly if you take some precautionary steps.