The key lesson for brands and agencies from the Facebook outage

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 6 October 2021
Credit: Tim Mossholder

Industry players say the key lesson from the Facebook outage is not to have all you media on the one platform.

The recent Facebook outage across the world created many conspiracies surrounding what may have caused this hack.

Insiders say to remember that we only rent space on social platforms and every brand should have a strong owned-content strategy that exists outside that.

How much advertisers rely on Facebook is in the platform's financial results. Facebook reported a 47% year-over-year increase in June quarter ad revenue amounting to $US28 billion.

Forrester’s 2021 Consumer Technographics Benchmark data shows Facebook’s core app continues to rank as the top-used social media platform weekly among global audiences. And other apps within the Facebook ecosystem (Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) also dominate globally over non-Facebook social media platforms.

"If you can cast your mind back to February (easier said than done given the year we’ve had), you may recall those few days without news on Facebook, during which a few big Aussie businesses happened to be accidentally shut down alongside new outlets," says Chloe Schneider, head of content at Bohemia.

"Now here we are, in October of the very same year, with a six-hour Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage causing a ruckus for brands around the world.

"If there’s anything brands should take from these two instances, less than nine months apart, it’s this — you do not own this space, you rent it.

"Ask yourself, if Facebook’s properties shut down tomorrow, would you be effectively communicating your brand's values, ethos and mission to the world? Would you have a place to show your customers not just what you sell, but why you sell it and what makes it unique?

"In a highly competitive world where consumers are demanding brands be authentic, transparent, and aligned to their values, sharing these messages is more critical than ever, and too many brands are relying on their social presence to be the outlet.

"Whether it’s a blog, a podcast, video content, or a newsletter, every brand should be creating content that lives on their site and is distributed to their database. Let the space you rent on those social platforms continue to amplify your brand and sell your products, but don’t forget that the house you own is the best investment of all. Put a lick of paint on the walls and hang up that art to show every visitor exactly who your brand is."

Analysts at global consultants Forrester say the Facebook outage wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last.

"It’s a reminder to advertisers to have proactive mitigation plans in place to avoid the scramble of trying to figure out what to do in the moment," they say

Forrester says brands should:

  1. Diversify media spend within and outside of social media. Brands should use this incident to (re)assess how much of their ad spend is concentrated in a single media platform and determine a go-forward diversification strategy that still reaches their target audiences while reducing concentration risk.
  2. Prepare for the next outage. When the next outage occurs, brands should position themselves to pivot quickly to lessen the blow to their demand gen efforts. This involves creating “what if” scenarios with specific actions to take as risk triggers occur.
  3. Adjust measurement tracking and optimisation. Marketers’ ad performance benchmarks will have to account for this outage – Comparing today’s performance against last Monday’s won’t be trend-able. This is problematic because Facebook/Instagram measurement exists in a vacuum and brands can’t pull data out into independent cross-channel attribution models. Marketers would be wise to pressure Facebook to quickly adjust for the outage to normalize brands’ silo-ed Facebook ad performance dashboards.

Clarissa Harris, managing director at True Tribe: "If past events have taught us anything, outages like these are becoming common with two most recently having occurred in March and July this year.

"Even if they’re a few hours, they have the potential to upend ad campaigns, scheduled posts and competitions not to mention access to third-party apps which require Facebook logins. It’s also fair to say that outages like this can’t happen on other platforms." 

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