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What’s the impact of Facebook’s downtime on digital marketing?

Last week was not such a glorious week for Facebook. It suffered its most devasting PR debacle yet and then its services went offline globally for hours on Monday and Friday.

After weeks of revelations of serious malfeasance and mounting criticism, Frances Haugen testifies before US Congress. And just hours after CBS’s Interview with Frances Haugen, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram went down for around 6 hours on Monday and then again for about 2 hours on Friday.

For many, the downtime is just an inconvenience. Even so, if you use the chats to keep in touch because you and your team are working remotely, it’s still a major headache. But depending on your location, the outage piles lifelines and livelihoods into one single point of failure.

What happened?

The entire network of services and apps owned by Facebook was down at around 17:30 CET on Monday. This included the services WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus VR. The outage even impacted Facebook employees as the company’s internal systems were affected. So, they couldn’t access email clients, internal communication tools, or even use authentication systems to open doors.

The downtime was caused by an internal configuration mistake in their backbone routers. These coordinate network traffic between the company’s data centres. Simply put, the machines stopped communicating with each other because of the misconfiguration which is called a DNS (domain name system) error. It wasn’t a hack.

What’s the digital marketing cost for businesses?

The world experienced a forced break. The outage has impaired the marketing campaigns of many businesses and saw their operations curtailed. Although it’s not known yet how the downtime has impacted digital marketing, it’s fair to say that it most likely caused businesses to lose millions in sales.

According to Invesp, Facebook gets more than 9% of the digital ad spending. For Germany, the Online-Vermarkterkreis has estimated the digital display advertising for 2021 to be €5,068 billion or around €13.9 million a day. Of course, this for all digital display advertising.

Still with these numbers, you can get a ballpark figure. Taking €13.9 million a day and the 9%, you can guesstimate that just for Germany, around €1.25 million may have been lost on Monday. This is just for Germany. And then it happened again on Friday.

For Facebook itself, the share price dropped by 4.9 % on Monday. And if you look at its global revenue for the second quarter of 2021, you can work out how much it may have lost on Monday.

In the second quarter of 2021, Facebook made in total about $28.5 billion. This makes around $313 million.

Which countries were most affected?

On Monday, Facebook’s social networking tools couldn’t be reached from around 17:30 CET. Although India has the highest numbers of users with 320 million, at least it happened during its nighttime hours.

The outage was the worst for the US&Canada and Europe, where also most of the advertising revenue comes from: USA and Canada with almost 56% and Europe with 27% (numbers according to Invesp).

To drive the point home, these are the main markets that normally make up about 83% of advertising revenue for Facebook and that during the primetime for digital marketing.

Will it happen again?

Of course, an outage of this scale is (or should be) rare. But alone in 2021, downtimes in March and April were reported in major news outlets. In 2020, there were 4 major WhatsApp outages.

The outages in October 2021 were one of the longest for Facebook at a group level. You can check Downdetector if you rely heavily on Facebook’s services.

Take from that what you will. But if you want to avoid being too affected, you should take a leave from the book of investors and diversify.

What can you do?

With ever more revelations, growing criticism, and now the outages, momentum is building among politicians to do something. Facebook was even likened to big tobacco by US Senator Markey. Which might mean new regulations or even breaking up the giant into smaller discrete entities.

New regulations, updates in iOS, changes in how browsers allow cookies, and changes in how we all use tech can affect digital marketing. Just as investors never put all eggs in one basket, neither should you.

If you rely on Facebook not only for your communication with your friends and family, to log in to other services including ecommerce as well as for your marketing activities, it means it’s a single point of failure. Just a little change can affect your entire business. So, it’s prudent to consider using alternatives for your campaigns such as:

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Snapchat
  • Tiktok

Staying up to date with changes in digital marketing is one of the best ways to prevent the consequences of services being unreachable such as in the case of the Facebook outages last week.

There are many ways to stay ahead of the curve such as following the news closely. Perhaps the most reliable and time-saving method is to hire a digital marketing consultant.

I realise it can be a bit of a daunting task to read up and stay on top of things in digital marketing. If that sounds like you and you’d like to avoid the fallout of something so unexpected as an outage, feel free to talk to us.

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