Christopher is the co-founder, head strategist and CEO of The Go! Agency, a full-service digital marketing agency.
Where were you on that fateful day when Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went offline?
For many businesses, no serious consequences came out of the more than five-hour outage. But some small businesses and creators that rely on the platforms lost thousands of dollars. What if the outage had lasted longer? What if the “routine maintenance mistake” that caused the sites to go down had taken the three off the internet forever?
The answer depends on how you look at the question. Given accusations that Facebook allows the spread of misinformation, some of us likely believe that the general population would probably be a little bit better off if that site were to vanish — although, those kinds of accusations aren’t limited to Facebook. But what not many seem to take into account is the effect that such an outage would have on small businesses. For locally owned businesses or startups with no marketing budget who rely on social media to help spread the word, the disappearance of a major platform could spell disaster very quickly.
And if Facebook goes down for good, Instagram, WhatsApp and a host of other platforms like Oculus would probably go down as well. Because they’re all owned by Facebook. And therein lies the problem.
What started as just a simple social media platform has spun into a complex web of proprietary companies and intellectual property that many don’t even know Facebook owns. As such, when Facebook makes a fumble and goes down for hours, Instagram creators feel the blow as well, and with Instagram quickly becoming one of the most popular platforms for e-commerce, a prolonged outage could lead to financial harm for many small businesses.
What the hours-long blip of Facebook and Instagram should teach small-business owners is this: diversify. I’ve talked before about how important it is to claim your spot on every social media channel, even the ones you don’t think you’ll use, and this is why. Even when Facebook and Instagram are down, there are still ways of using the remaining social media platforms to your advantage — but you’ll make it a lot harder than it needs to be if you put yourself in the position where you have to start from zero. During the Facebook outage, many users turned to their accounts on other platforms like TikTok and Twitter.
Diversifying your digital marketing approach is more than just a safety measure. People often conflate digital marketing with social media marketing when, in reality, social media is just one component of a healthy digital strategy. A full digital marketing effort should incorporate email marketing, long-form content and digital advertising into the mix. By branching out, you’re both giving yourself new routes in case of emergencies as well as new routes in general to reach customers who don’t cross over with any of your other approaches.
Here are the facts: The world is increasingly becoming digital, and the internet is rapidly changing. Between maintenance mistakes that can take major social media platforms offline or proposed laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that posed a serious threat to online freedom, no platform can truly be counted on. As we just saw, even the mighty can fall, even if only for a few hours.
Diversifying your content not only gives you a wider reach, but it also acts as the best kind of insurance a brand can have: free protection against unpredictability.