Facebook is Down – this 6-hour long void on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and their allied services yesterday broke the Internet. During this time, people couldn’t send or receive messages or money on WhatsApp, Facebook wouldn’t allow logins, and Instagram couldn’t refresh or let you send messages. The Internet headed over to Twitter to figure out what was happening, vent their frustration or get a laugh or two out of the memes that flooded the platform. But what actually happened?
BGP Configuration Error
I could give you a complicated theory, replete with technical jargon about what happened, but I hate when people do that to me. So instead, I’m going to simplify this for you with a birthday card analogy.
Someone sends you a birthday card by post/snail mail, and it arrives at the post office nearest to you. This is like the DNS (Domain Name System) of all the addresses within its jurisdiction. Great so far.
Now, the problem is, when they wrote your name, they forgot to write your complete address; they just wrote a house number and pin code. The post office knows that this house is within their jurisdiction, but has no way of figuring out how to reach your house. And so, your birthday card remains undelivered. You could say that the directions from the post office to your house are missing. This is like the routing information in the BGP (Border Gateway Protocol). It is similar to a map or a set of instructions to tell the post office exactly how to reach your house.
Now, that’s a very simple analogy to explain what happened to Facebook yesterday. Everybody who wanted to access Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp was on the Internet with the site address. The BGP routing tables went missing during an update. The result? A whole lot of traffic tried to reach the Facebook servers. But the information about where to direct it was missing entirely. For 6 whole hours, Facebook servers dropped off the internet completely.
What did this mean for small businesses?
A’s bakery does some brisk sales on Instagram. Monday morning is a busy time for them, especially since they bake on Sundays and get the most orders for freshly baked cakes, pies and brownies on Monday. With Instagram down for 6 hours, they lost out on most of their sales, their produce lost freshness and a whole day went into a tailspin.
On the other hand, P, a life coach and healer, holds candid morning sessions with her clients on WhatsApp. Monday mornings are busy for her, with stressed workers and people looking to change things around. 6 hours of downtime meant clients who wouldn’t come back, lost revenue and added stress for people already under pressure.
Does this mean businesses should swear off Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp just in case this ever recurs? Well, in that case, they’ll have to get off Google and Amazon as well because those companies had a major outage in 2020. Rather than respond with a knee-jerk, it’s time to step back and evaluate.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
Rather than trusting a single social media platform and assuming it’ll never go down or one communication platform to talk to your customers, diversify. How? Like this:
1) Social Media Platforms
Many businesses pick the platform that works best for them and work very hard to build their audience on one or maybe 2 platforms. Small companies don’t have a lot of money to spend on social media marketing or the time to master marketing on 4-7 types of platforms.
What you can do, however, is create accounts across social media channels – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube – the more, the merrier. Then, pick the primary channels that work best for you (If you need help with that, here you go). Promote the fact that you are on other channels as well across social media. Post frequently on your primary channels, and cross-post at least once a week on the secondaries so that your followers know you are active there.
In the event of an outage on any platform (even if it’s your primary one), you can talk to your followers/customers on your other channels.
Pro: Stay connected even in the event of downtime on one channel.
Con: It will take a little time and study to figure out how to ensure your followers know you on all your channels, but it is important.
Don’t knock email marketing; it isn’t dead yet! Collecting your customers’ emails is pretty easy to do; in fact, you probably have this information already.
Don’t spam them! Send an email once a week or once a fortnight and tell them things that will interest them. You sell more when your customers aren’t annoyed to hear from you. If you have an active email list, it is easier to let them know where they can reach you in case of a platform(s) outage.
Pro: The information you need is really easy to collect, just a single email id
Con: Putting together quality content might take time. Also, you need to ensure that your emails don’t end up in the Promotions tab or Spam.
3) Messaging Channels
Thanks to WhatsApp’s policies in the last 2 years, people have become more comfortable with using alternate messaging platforms, even if they aren’t the first choice. As a business, you need to be where your customers are. Create a Signal account and a Telegram channel in addition to your WhatsApp. Message your customers on special occasions across channels. This way you remind them that you are present wherever they need you to be!
Pro: Accessing your customer on message for orders, updates, and more is very simple and can be stored and shared easily.
Con: Staying relevant without being spammy across channels takes practice. Also, customers might not actively be using multiple channels, so save this for emergencies.
This is literally the most critical piece of Internet real estate you need to invest in today. Your site doesn’t have to look like a Netflix frontend or be as robust as Minecraft servers.
What you do need is this:
- A website where the information is simple, clear and easy to find.
- A way to contact you (live chat would be a good option to integrate, else at least a phone number)
- It should offer security while browsing or buying – really, if you don’t have an SSL certification at the very least, get it now!
Lastly, make it enjoyable by adding a blog a week or a BTS if your production process is fascinating. When you reward users for dropping by, it motivates them to come back for more.
If you want a hand with your social media marketing, or need a robust website built well, our media tech agency – MediaGhar – could do an amazing job for you. Want to know anything else about how you can help your small business expand digitally? Drop off your question(s) in the comments below; we’d love to help!