Shopify Ecosystem

The Facebook & Instagram Outage – What It Means For Your Influencer Marketing Campaign

the-facebook-&-instagram-outage-–-what-it-means-for-your-influencer-marketing-campaign

Few would have expected that six hours without Facebook could rock the world, but that’s exactly what happened during the recent social media outage. From Silicon Valley tech investors to third-world smartphone users, everyone felt the effects of Facebook and Instagram’s historical outage.

Graph of Internet traffic served by Facebook global outage on October 4, 2021
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Why was there a Facebook and Instagram outage?

Even though the simple complication that led to one of the largest tech disasters in history is resolved, many are dying to know what happened. Because the outage occurred immediately after Francis Haugen, a former data analyst at Facebook, testified against the company before Congress, many feared the two events were connected.

What happened

Shortly before noon Eastern Time on Oct. 4th, Facebook and its digital platforms collapsed leaving users, creators, and brands stranded from their normal routine. While the outage impacted multiple channels – including WhatsApp, Oculus, and Facebook’s own digital communication tool, Workplace – the most notable shutdowns occurred on Facebook and Instagram.

Additionally, Facebook logins on third party apps, smart home electronics, and media streaming services didn’t work for a large portion of the population. 

The outage lasted more than five hours, leading many people to believe that Facebook and Instagram might be under cyber attack or worse. But the company’s engineers reported that the offline event had a simple explanation: there was an infrastructural update that resulted in unexpected “networking issues.”

“To all the people and businesses around the world who depend on us, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused by today’s outage across our platforms.”

Santosh Janardhan, VP of Infrastructure at Facebook

Facebook apps going back online

Those living on the West Coast were able to return to Facebook and Instagram by mid to late afternoon. As apps came back online, Facebook informed users that it would take time for all features to return to normal.

From a market standpoint, the combined blows of Francis Haugen and platform outages forced Facebook stock to drop by more than 4%. The next day, the company recovered just 1% of its losses.

While the Facebook, Instagram, and Oculus apps have not appeared to have any issues since, public confidence is at an all-time low. 

When Facebook announced its intention to rebrand the corporate name (its apps and SaaS services would retain their current names), many assumed Mark Zuckerberg made the decision in an attempt to overcome damage to Facebook’s reputation. But in reality, this name change might have been a plan in the works for some time. Zuckerberg claims to have broader plans for the company beyond social media. The Verge noted that Google made a similar move when changing its corporate name five years ago.

Facebook & Instagram’s brand-creator partnerships

Facebook Marketplace, the social commerce center for both Facebook and Instagram, is the leading social media marketplace online today. As the center for social commerce, influencer marketing campaigns came to a screeching halt on October 4.

Bar and line graph of US Facebook Social Commerce Buyers, 2019-2025
Image via Insider Intelligence

The brands that could do so shifted their strategy to other working channels, such as Twitter, TikTok, Twitch, and Pinterest. Creators did the same.

But many businesses rely on Facebook and Instagram as their only platform for brand-creator partnerships. Those brands couldn’t run campaigns. And as a result, all parties involved lost critical revenue.

Facebook under scrutiny – is there a connection between Haugen’s whistleblowing & the outage?

There is no evidence that Francis Haugen’s bold leak to the press is connected with the Facebook outage. But there’s still plenty of speculation surrounding these two events that occurred almost simultaneously.

Considering that Facebook and Instagram account for the majority of social media usage around the world, there is enough public concern raising suspicions that the two incidents could be related. 

But considering that Facebook and Instagram account for the majority worldwide social media usage, there’s still plenty of public speculation that the two incidents could be related. 

Screenshot of smartphone next to bar graph depicting top 10 most used social networks in the US
Image via Statista

Regardless, the recent Facebook/Instagram outage raised awareness for the company’s legal woes in Washington. People who would otherwise not have cared about these congressional inquiries are now interested in what the future holds for social media in the United States.

Why is Facebook under scrutiny?

“[Francis] Haugen told Congress that Facebook consistently chose to maximize its growth rather than implement safeguards on its platforms, just as it hid from the public and government officials internal research that illuminated the harms of Facebook products.”

NPR.org

Haugen sought to expose her former employer before Congress and offered damning evidence to prove that Facebook used its algorithms to sow discord and reinforce unhealthy mindsets among its users (specifically teenage girls).

Some insist that Facebook employees instigated the outage either in protest or in solidarity to Haugen’s decision. Others speculate that vigilante groups hacked Facebook’s network in the name of justice. But there is yet no evidence to back up those claims, and such theories are unlikely considering the company’s security protocols and the high probability of outages when any large organization makes a routine infrastructural change to its digital network.

The impact of Facebook going down on October 4

The rippling effects of the Facebook outage ranges from mere inconvenience to SMB budget crises. In some developing nations, Messenger and WhatsApp are essential for keeping in touch with at-risk family members. But even in first-world countries, thousands of people depend on Facebook and Instagram for their livelihood. 

How did the outage affect users?

Estimated monthly active users (MAUs) on Facebook: 2.9 billion

Estimated MAUs on Instagram: 1.4 billion

Estimated MAUs on Messenger: 1.3 billion

Estimated MAUs on WhatsApp: 1.6 billion

Between Facebook and Instagram, there are billions of daily users whose lives were disrupted by the October 4 outage. 

Graphs of overviews of Facebook users in the US by gender, age, household size, and community
Image via Statista

Facebook as a parent company currently has the largest share of social media users in the United States. The primary app, Facebook, appeals more to older users and Instagram to younger users.

Graphs of overviews of Instagram users in the US by gender, age, household size, and community
Image via Statista

As all Facebook apps fell offline, people resorted to other social channels or took a break from social media altogether. 

How did the outage affect businesses?

Many businesses depend on Facebook apps for marketing, sales, and customer service. These brands couldn’t connect with customers through their most profitable channels like Facebook groups, instant messaging (Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp), Facebook/Instagram Shops, and more.

Some businesses leveraged other mediums to connect with their customers and fulfill orders. Others were shut down completely, rendered helpless as they lost a days’ worth of sales.

How did the outage affect creators?

“Tori Mistick, an influencer in the pet space, had sponsored posts due on Monday. ‘The outage pushed back other collaborations and partnerships I have planned for the month,’ Mistick said. ‘I can’t get paid unless I publish content for a sponsored campaign, so a shutdown like this has the potential to delay thousands of dollars of income for me.’”

Business Insider

Full and part-time social media creators also lost income during the Facebook-Instagram outage. Instagram, in particular, has traditionally been the most robust platform for brand-creator relationships. Not only did these campaigns not launch, but many creators had to alter their weekly content calendar to compensate for engagement losses.

How did the outage affect marketers?

As the leading channels for social commerce, Facebook and Instagram allow brands to leverage connectivity with consumers in a way that is not possible on other mediums. With both platforms down, marketers had to think fast.

To maintain influencer marketing campaigns, marketers resorted to other channels like Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok. Keeping in touch with customers and prospects meant reaching out by alternative means. In other words, most marketers were forced to be active on multiple platforms to remain front-of-mind with target audiences.

Who were the winners when Facebook went down?

The recent Facebook outage wasn’t all bad. Many people, brands, and strategies gained a foothold that they otherwise would not have. The shutdown created opportunities for new players and tactics to flex.

Many also argued that a break from social media was needed for their mental and emotional health. The entire world felt the loss of Facebook and Instagram, and many chose to embrace the silver lining of not feeling tied to their smartphones.

Other social media channels

Screenshot of Pinterest article
Image via Pinterest

While Facebook and Instagram were unavailable, millions of people increased their usage on other channels. Among the first to capitalize was Twitter, which became the center for hilarious memes and Facebook corporate updates.

TikTok also enjoyed an uptick in activity with countless creators welcoming new fans to the channel formerly reserved for Gen Z-ers and young-at-heart Millennials.

Facebook’s outage did not affect other social media platforms like Reddit, Discord, Pinterest, Twitch, Snapchat, and Marco Polo. Those determined to stay digitally connected to their friends, family, favorite creators and brands had options, and they utilized them to the fullest.

#facebookisdown

Powering the dominance of other social channels was the hashtag, #facebookisdown. Creators used the hashtag to welcome users to their page, speculate on what would become of “Facebook as we know it,” and generate buzz around a relevant topic.

@mfbenji

#facebook #facebookisdown #comedy #coding #fyp

♬ original sound – Michael Benjamin

These #FacebookIsDown tweets are internet gold! pic.twitter.com/Dns9H0pKhW

— Kory (@koryamc1) October 5, 2021

Twitter assumed the lead role in gathering #facebookisdown messages. People poked fun at Facebook, Zuckerberg, and a social-media-frenzied population.

Individuals also took to Discord and Reddit discussions, particularly those curious about the network malfunction that set off the outage.

Meme highlights

One of the best collections of funny memes arose from the Facebook outage. Here are some of the top performers.

Social media meme
Image via Evening Standard
Homer Simpson Instagram meme
Image via Film Daily

— 𝓗𝓪𝓼𝓷𝓪𝓲𝓷_.𝓴𝓱𝓪𝓷🇵🇰🇪🇭 (@nainu_here) October 6, 2021

Facebook is down meme
Image via East Coast Radio

Creators with a diversified online presence

Those creators that had carefully-curated personal brands across multiple social channels may have felt an initial inconvenience by the Facebook outage, but by the end of the day, they had pivoted smoothly and were back in business.

“TikTok isn’t owned by Facebook, so I figured that I could still interact with people there. It gave me the opportunity to cover all my social media bases.”

– Brittany DiCapua (food influencer), Business Insider

Bloggers, YouTubers, live streamers, and TikTokers still had their main platforms from which to interact. If anything, the absence of Facebook and Instagram created more engagement as creators leveraged current events to increase their reach.

What does Facebook & Instagram’s October 4th outage mean for the future of influencer marketing?

Everyone is now aware that Facebook is not invincible. For that matter, if it can happen to Facebook, it can happen to any social media platform.

A one or two channel influencer strategy poses unnecessary risks. It is now abundantly clear that brands and creators must be active and connected in more places.

How should brands prepare for outages in the future?

Many are now preparing for when – not if – their preferred social channel goes down. Besides creating profiles and content in multiple social media channels, there are a few things that marketers should consider. 

First, brands should discuss the Facebook outage with their creator team and have a backup plan in order to meet campaign goals. A backup plan should include which channels provide a reasonable alternative, as well as what might need to change by way of content style and posting schedules.

Second, brands can partner with their creators to ensure that the brands’ followings are substantial across more than one social network. For example, if your brand has 50,000 followers on Instagram, make the effort to achieve a similar follower count on Twitter or Pinterest. Most influencers are handy with multiple channels and can help you increase followers on those platforms.

Third, brands need to include different types of content in their campaigns. Developing high-performing campaigns using images, videos, and written content gives marketing and creator teams more flexibility in a time of crisis. 

Fourth, brands should build a stockpile of various types of content in case a campaign needs to shift from one platform to another. After brands collect a diverse content portfolio from their creators, they are in a good position to take advantage of new opportunities when the primary plan is disrupted.

Fifth and last, marketers need reliable creator management apart from social media platforms. Because direct brand-influencer relationships consistently generate the best results, it’s common for marketers to manage partnerships in-house using their preferred social networks and spreadsheets. But if those networks go offline, so does their influencer program. The alternative is investing in creator management tools that function independently of any one or two social media platforms. 

Conclusion

Despite how it felt to some, the Facebook-Instagram outage did not usher the end of the world. But the event was severe enough to force everyone to consider how they should respond if their favorite platform goes offline.

With each challenge comes new opportunities, and many brands and creators took advantage of those opportunities on October 4th. Consider whether your influencer marketing strategy is “outage proof” and adjust your future campaigns to secure your campaign goals and KPIs.

Special thanks to our friends at Grin.co for their insights on this topic.