What Should You Do When a Social Media Platform Fails?

Author Emma Knightley

On March 13th 2019, Facebook suffered the most prolonged outage in its history. For several hours, users lost access to the social network, as well as the other major platforms in its family, Instagram and WhatsApp. Some people lost access for several hours.

In our hyper-connected world, the sudden loss of three prominent social networks was startling. For digital marketers, the situation was a nightmare leaving scheduling tools broken and campaigns to go awry.

So how should you prepare for possible outages in the future? In this article, we’ll break it down into three phases: dealing with the immediate issue, post-outage recovery, and preventative steps.

Immediate Steps

First and foremost, confirm that there really is a widespread outage, rather than a local issue.

This might sound like a standard IT department recommendation but begin by restarting your browser or app, then attempt to access the platform again. If it works, congratulations; your personal outage is over: 

Check Progress Reports

Check Progress Reports

However, if you still have problems, this can indicate a global interruption.

Your first port of call should be a website that checks whether social platforms are running correctly; for example, Down Detector. You may receive a confirmation that the site is down, which allows you to move on to preparing for its return, whilst keeping an eye on any progress.

If this check doesn’t throw forward any clues, try another social media platform. During the Facebook-Instagram-WhatsApp calamity, Twitter became the space for announcements and discussions.

The ultimate irony, of course, was that Facebook used its Twitter account to communicate with the world.

Communicate With Your Audience

Once you know for sure that there is a global problem, take inspiration from Facebook’s actions and announce the outage on your other social media accounts.

It’s also a good idea to leave a brief note on your blog, and if access is restricted for several hours, send a message to your email list, acknowledging what’s happening and giving assurance that you’ll be back as soon as possible.

Turn It Into An Opportunity

Turn It Into An Opportunity

A much-discussed event such as this can also be used as an opportunity to attract new leads. Create a time-relevant meme and upload it where you can – it might be the next viral sensation.

Or, at least, it’ll raise a smile amongst your follower base whilst they’re habitually refreshing their screens.

You might even wish to treat your audience to a time-limited special offer and sell it as a distraction from the outage. There’s ample scope to transform a negative situation into a huge positive.

When You’re Back Online

As the saying goes, this too shall pass. And so, even the longest Facebook outage in history eventually came to a conclusion.

As a digital marketer, your job is to help your brand recover quickly and implement a strategy that gets everyone back up to speed.

Begin with a ‘Welcome back’ post, a brief and straightforward message to your audience lets them know that you have a finger on the online world’s pulse

Catch Up

Next, get yourself and your team back on track. Reply to any messages or mentions you receive, and if there’s a popular hashtag doing the rounds, make a positive contribution to the discussion.

A word of caution, however: outages are frustrating for everyone so don’t be alarmed if responses or tensions run high when communicating with your audience. Simply make light of the situation and do your best to deal with any backlog or issues.

Regroup

Next, check the extent of disruption to any advertising campaigns you’re currently running on social media and pause them where necessary. If, for example, you’re running a Facebook campaign, the interruption may allow you to apply for compensation in the form of Facebook credits.

Finally, if you were planning to launch a social media campaign on the day of the outage, hold back until you know for sure that everything is resolved. Communicate this decision to all relevant stakeholders and put together a revised plan for implementation.

Preventative Action

Social media outages always catch us by surprise; that’s the problem with random events.

But even if you don’t know precisely when the next disruption will take place, you can at least be prepared for every eventuality. A preventative strategy is absolutely essential in digital marketing.

Diversify Your Channels

Moving forward, it’s critically important for your brand to have a diverse social media portfolio.

Don’t become reliant on just one platform, because if it’s offline, it means that your social presence disappears too. Unlike your own website, you have no control over what happens behind the scenes, so too much reliance on one network can be problematic in the long run.

If you’re using one or two platforms, extend your reach to other social networks. For example, let’s say your business has active and engaged audiences on Facebook and Instagram, but nowhere else. The recent outage would have completely wiped out your social presence – temporarily, at least.

To get around this problem, open accounts on other social networks, giving consideration to the websites your audience are most likely to use. Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are good candidates, depending on the nature of your brand and its products.

Cross-reference Your Accounts

Cross-reference social network accounts whenever you have the opportunity.

For example, in the About section of your company’s Facebook page, you can list its Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube pages. Likewise, you can share a Pin on Twitter.

Find the links and make them clear to your audience so that they can still find you, even if one social giant is having a nightmarish day.

Grow Your Email List As A Backup

It’s also a good idea to work on building your email list. Now, email might not be the most fashionable marketing tool, but it’s an enduring and effective workhorse.

If the lights go out on Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, a strong and well-populated email list can keep that connection with your audience alive and well.

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

Finally, it’s highly recommended to write a set of sample communications that address a social media blackout in advance, and keep them ready for deployment when required.

This is a huge time-saver, particularly on an occasion when you’re likely to be managing several stressful tasks at once. There simply aren’t enough hours available to sit down and craft beautiful prose! Instead, acknowledge what’s happening, stick to the key facts, and provide alternative contact details.

Draft a few messages that can be sent after a disruption has been resolved too.

Conclusion

When your marketing efforts are dependent on social media, an outage can be devastating – especially if more than one platform is involved. Swift action is important at every stage.

The initial response should involve confirming which sites are down, checking whether it’s a global or local interruption, and issuing immediate announcements on alternative platforms. Your team should also be kept up to speed.

In the immediate aftermath, welcome your audience back to affected platforms, involve your team again, and assess whether there has been a substantial disruption to active campaigns.

And moving forward, the most important take-home message is to broaden your brand’s social media portfolio. Embrace new platforms and ensure that your backup plan has a backup plan.

Emma Knightley