July 3rd 2019 was the day our eyes looked up from our phones with confusion, our fingers scrolled through unresponsive feeds of social channels we asked: “what’s happening?!”
The great crash of July saw Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp users across parts of Europe and the USA unable to access the the social media channels they relied on so much.
Social media crashed
Instagram failed to load user’s feeds and while “stories” loaded intermittently, users were unable to update this part of their profile.
As somebody scheduling content across social platforms on the day of the crash, I was unable to post an Instagram story or load my feed. After submission, the post just loaded and loaded, timing out, prompting the platform to ask me to refresh. No matter how many times I repeated the process, the outcome was the same, an unresponsive Instagram.
Those using Facebook messenger at the time of the crash, were unable to send images and videos via message, while others found the messenger app generally unresponsive.
Outside of Messenger, Facebook feeds ceased to load, and images were replaced by “back end” descriptions situated where the image should be. These descriptions give us an interesting insight into the AI clearly being deployed by Facebook, but who cares about curiosity when your next exciting campaign is stopped dead in its tracks?
What caused the crash?
The outages are thought to be attributed to development. Back in January, the New York Times reported that Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook (who own all three social media channels) intended to merge the three platforms to make them inter-operable. So far, we’ve seen no sign of this.
What does this mean?
The crash poses a number of questions to businesses deploying social media marketing.
- What would happen if this occurred on the day you were releasing a new product, launching a new service, or running a high-profile campaign you were rolling-out across Facebook and Instagram?
- For businesses using WhatsApp, would the outage affect your ability to communicate with and reach your customers?
- Would the Messenger crash affect the amount of customer enquires received through your business’s Facebook page, and your ability to respond to them?
What can we learn from the crash?
Outages like this one really drive home the need to ensure your audience is spread over a number of social channels. For example, on July 3rd, if your business has a Twitter profile, you’d have been able to reach a portion of your audience, or alert them to a new way you were going to deliver your messaging to them in the meantime.
However, on July 11th, Twitter users experienced an hour-long outage too. According to Digital Trends, Twitter reported that this was due to “an internal configuration change”, affecting parts of North America, Europe and Asia. Curiously enough, the outage occurred during the White House Social Media Summit.
As we often tell delegates at our Social Media Masterclasses, social media channels make changes to their platforms and their functionality regularly, so relying solely on social platforms to reach your audience is unadvised.
This is where email marketing is really useful. If you haven’t already, create a form on your website to collect the email addresses of users interested in receiving updates from you. As you start to develop a database of contacts, you can begin to craft monthly email campaigns to share your news, thought leadership pieces, and industry related news.
Sending out email marketing once a month is standard practise, however, depending on the kind of business you’re marketing and how ravenous your audience are, you could increase the frequency of these emails. Websites like Campaign Monitor or Mail Chimp are really useful as they provide reports detailing the open rate, the names of those who opened it, what links were clicked on, and if the email has been re-shared.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the big take-home from the July crash is the importance or your website.
Before the days of social media, we would all head to the website of the organisations or business’s we were interested in, to learn of any new products, services, news and offers etc. This was, and still is, totally logical. The website of a business/brand is their official home, even now, with all the affiliated social media channels now available, so make use of it.
Driving customers to your website
Not all of your audience will suddenly convert back to the ways of the past, but you can encourage traffic to your website in a number of ways.
A simple and obvious way to do this is to ensure your social posts link back to the business website (where relevant), to encourage clicks and traffic.
Think of ways you can incentivise website visits, perhaps there’s a particular kind of content, unique in some way to your business, that you could share on your website alone to drive regular and repeat visits.
Offers or more engaging and less sales lead content, is almost certainly going to be the right choice of content for this particular application. Think, what do your audience like to engage with?
After recent polls revealed that consumers hold a fondness for communicating with the businesses and brands they’re invested in via SMS, this is certainly an avenue to explore. With major brands such as the airline KLM, sending reminders, confirmations and flight details via WhatsApp message, we know that short messages delivered directly to the customer’s mobile, really work.
But as the recent crash has taught us, SMS is a more reliable and familiar method of communicating with customers.
To conclude, the crash teaches us the importance of the more reliable methods of marketing for which we have total ownership. Social Media is one part of a large puzzle, an important one, but not the be all and end all.