Local business owners reliance on social media came to light during the recent outage

By: Madison Reed

Executive Producer

On Monday, Oct. 4, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all experienced a six-hour global outage. According to Facebook, it was not a hack or an attack on the site, but rather a self-inflicted problem due to an update to the routers that coordinate network traffic.

The platforms went down around 11:40 a.m. and the company announced the sites were back up roughly 6:30 p.m. later that same day.

Facebook said in an update announcement that the “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate the network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication.” 

The disruption caused a domino-type effect on the communication of the data centers which caused the services to halt.

Facebook said, “The underlying cause of this outage also impacted many of the internal tools and systems we use in our day-to-day operations, complicating our attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem.”

This came before the testimony of the former Facebook product manager on Tuesday, who claimed that the company chose profit over safety—saying its products harmed children and stoked division.

Due to the approaching trial, many people believed the company had been hacked, but Facebook quickly quenched those rumors announcing the cause of the issue was the faulty configuration, and that there was “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.”

These outages and their impacts have also caused many businesses to take into consideration their reliance and dependence on social media.

 “People and businesses around the world rely on us everyday to stay connected,” Facebook said. “We understand the impact that outages like these have on people’s lives…we apologize to all those affected, and we’re working to understand more about what happened today so we can contribute to make our infrastructure more resilient.”

In response to Facebook company’s site outages, Co-owner of Branch Strategy here in Stephenville Jackie Martin said, “It’s a good reminder how quickly these tools can disappear. If your business is solely reliant on a third-party platform, you are at their mercy. Outages can impact you but so can changes to algorithms, updates to service agreements or sudden changes to what is or is not acceptable.”

A screenshot of Facebook’s tweets about their outages. Screenshot By: Madison Reed

Martin explained people and businesses have come to rely heavily on social media over the years—whether to sell or buy a product. It is now an important part of any business’s marketing strategies.

“With the average American on their phone between four to six hours a day we know social media captures a lot of this attention,” Martin said. “If you want to reach your customers, social media has to be part of your strategy.”

Katie McDowell, co-owner and manager of Armagh Creamery in Dublin, said, “Social media is a big part of our marketing strategy…it’s a way we are communicating our brand story and reaching ideal customers through targeted ad campaigns. It’s also a great tool for networking with other related businesses.”

Armagh Creamery’s Instagram Account.
Screenshot By: Madison Reed

McDowel explained that social media could become quite burdensome. McDowell wished the site could have stayed down a little longer if only to get a few days reprieve from the constant posting.

“There’s a lot of pressure to keep up with the unceasing pace of social media trends…Social media has made marketing a much more fast-paced effort,” McDowell said. “Now you have to make reels, dance, be funny and engaging too. On one hand, there are so many opportunities for creativity and anyone can do it but it is another thing to learn and develop. For busy business owners, it can feel overwhelming.”

McDowell continued by saying, “I did have a moment of selfish relief thinking I may not have to worry about keeping up with it for a few days. Social media can be such a huge time suck and distraction but has become a necessary part of business development.”

Martin and McDowell believe that businesses should have other ways of marketing their product in addition to social media. Both business owners suggested using email lists as another way to reach customers and continue to do so in the case of another social media outage.

Branch strategies Instagram account. Screenshot By: Madison reed

“The only form of digital communication a business owns is email,” Martin said. “So, your social media strategy should point to your email strategy. That way your business can survive without social media.”

While they agreed on the additional layer of marketing, they disagreed on whether they believed their business, as well as other small businesses, would be able to survive if social media were to disappear.

“Business owners are resourceful,” McDowell argued. “We would have to pivot and it would be a serious blow for many…But a lot of business owners have already started to build email lists as part of their marketing plan and to make sure their website is clearly communicating their brand message and staying relevant with value-added content in the event social media goes down.”

McDowell added, “It’s huge for building brand awareness, but can’t replace brand loyalty that only comes from people trying and loving your product or service. It might get someone in the door but what you offer keeps them coming back.”

Martin argued a different perspective, “It would be significantly harder to stay in business. Social media allows us to target our ideal customers. Without it, we’d spend a significant amount of time at conferences or doing outbound sales, which is not only time-consuming but made harder over the last 18-months.”

Over the past few days, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have been working without any further issues. The company is closely monitoring its products and making sure each problem is fixed accordingly.

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