Oct 7, 2021
On October 4, Facebook and Instagram experienced a massive platform outage that marked their longest stretch of downtime since 2008. This event caused a tidal wave for online businesses and even resulted in the company’s shares dropping nearly 5%. It also impacted their other services like WhatsApp, Oculus, and Messenger.
What Caused the Outage?
Facebook engineers explained that the outage was caused during routine maintenance. A command was erroneously issued that disconnected the company’s backbone network from Facebook’s global network of data centers. This also affected the tools that their engineers would use to resolve the problem.
Thankfully, Facebook was able to recover from the outage within the day. However, for most regular business hours in North America, the platforms remained virtually unusable. The lost revenue from the platforms’ downtime, plus the drop in stock values resulted in potentially billions of lost dollars.
How Did This Affect Agencies?
Digital marketing agencies share a trusting relationship with platforms like Facebook. They invest their clients’ budgets into advertising on these platforms with the expectation that Facebook will provide a reliable, consistent, and high-quality service. A business day-long outage cuts directly against all three of those desired attributes. Some agencies that focus mainly or exclusively on social advertising lost an entire business day waiting for a platform they built their businesses around to come back online.
The October 4 outage was concerning and peculiar at best, panic-inducing for agency leaders at worst. It served as a strong reminder that planning for unpredictable red alerts is critical for agencies to maintain an excellent experience for their clients. These contingency plans allow your team to continue to add value to your business when a core operation is unavailable beyond anyone’s control.
Now that the dust in Facebook’s data centers has settled a bit, let’s look at some key takeaways that agencies should note.
Attention to Detail is Non-Negotiable in a Digital World
The Facebook and Instagram outage was caused by oversight. A connection-severing command was issued during what was supposed to be routine maintenance. This event is a prime example of what can go wrong when even the most basic functions are overlooked.
Providing an excellent agency experience for your client demands meticulous attention to detail. Any and all deliverables that are sent from your team to your client should have multiple sets of eyes on them before they reach the client’s inbox. This way, if there is an issue to resolve, you can address it proactively instead of waiting for the client to point it out.
Consistent, quality deliverables are a sign that your agency has strong credibility. That does not mean that a client will love everything you put in front of them. That said, if they can look at something you’ve sent them and see that it was crafted to professional standards, they can trust that your agency lives up to its claims. Aligning promises and payoff is the best way to validate your brand’s authority.
Anticipate and Plan for Red Alerts Beyond Your Control
The Facebook engineers were able to resolve the outage because they had digitally simulated similar scenarios in the past. Though the process proved long and laborious, they knew which steps they had to take. There was a clear endpoint and the team had the GPS to reach the intended destination.
Similarly, agency leaders need to prepare for situations like this that are beyond their control. What do you do if Facebook and Instagram are down again? What if the client’s website suffers a security breach? Having plans in place to proactively address these types of scenarios is critical to maintaining a trusting relationship with clients. They will know that you know what to do when chaotic moments arise.
Have a Red Alert Communication Plan
No matter your agency’s core competencies, your team engages in an aspect of public relations each day. Communicating with clients, maintaining their trust, and continuing to reinforce their positive perception of your business are all key PR principles.
A long-held mantra in the PR industry is that the best way to address a crisis is to prepare for it. When a major platform experiences an outage and your client wants to know how it affects their campaigns, this is a type of crisis communication scenario.
The best way to tackle these moments of uncertainty is to remain ahead of them. Create a proactive red alert communication plan for when events like the Facebook/Instagram outage happen in the future.
Here’s an easy-to-follow template for a red alert communication plan your agency can put into practice with your own clients:
1. Start By Understanding the Problem
You can’t brief your client on what is happening if you do not have an understanding of the events first. If an outage occurs on another platform that you are running campaigns on, check their social profiles and websites for official statements. You should also visit industry publications to see if they have any additional information.
Dissect and distill this information as plainly as possible. Being able to succinctly explain what happened enables you to effectively communicate to your clients.
2. Consider How the Problem Affects the Client’s Business
If Google Ads were to suddenly switch off overnight, how would this affect your client’s PPC, display, and/or YouTube campaigns? Should the client worry, or will a little time and patience prove the most suitable remedy?
Consider how an outage will affect your client’s business, if at all, and take a transparent tone with your messaging. Assure your client that your team is remaining on top of the latest developments and that you will address the situation when necessary as it resolves.
3. Message Your Clients Before They Message You
Let your clients know that a platform outage has occurred. In your messaging, include some key talking points like:
When the outage happened
The outage is beyond anyone’s control
It will be resolved, but it will take time
Your team will conduct a thorough review of their accounts on these platforms once they are back online to ensure they remain intact
In your message to your client, invite them to contact you directly if they would like to learn more about what is happening. This can present an opportunity to strengthen your credibility with them.
A Holistic Suite of Digital Services Matters Now More Than Ever
For businesses that advertise and publish content exclusively on social, the Facebook and Instagram outage was a serious blow to their marketing efforts. It also highlights how going all-in on just one or two digital platforms is no longer a viable option in today’s digital ecosystem.
Providing your clients with a full suite of digital solutions enables them to continue their marketing efforts when events like these happen. Facebook and Instagram are experiencing another outage? If you are also running PPC or email campaigns, they are still delivering impressions during this time.
When your team has access to a complete arsenal of digital tactics, you are far better equipped to adapt and continue to add value to your accounts. However, that often feels easier said than done in the current agency climate. Hiring the right people to manage a full digital suite has become more challenging than ever.
At Conduit Digital, we provide your agency with a complete team of certified digital marketing experts to serve as an extension of your own. This rounds out your in-house core competencies and gives you the scope and scale to confidently say “yes” to more of the right opportunities.
To learn more about how you can scale your own agency with a more complete product suite, visit our Agency Partnership page.