The Who, Why, & How of the Facebook Outage
The Monday, October 4, 2021 Facebook outage was the longest in 13 years, lasting six hours. According to a blog article written by Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure Santosh Janardhan, the outage was the result of a “faulty configuration change” on Facebook’s part. Janardhan wrote:
“Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”
The outage was highly annoying for users and mocked by late night talk show hosts, according to an article from The New York Times.
“It was so bad that the only way Facebook could let the world know what was going on — and this is true — was by posting a message on Twitter. ”
— STEPHEN COLBERT
But for the platform, which brings in multi-billion dollar ad revenue from advertisers each year, as well as the advertisers themselves, who rely on it to deliver their message to targeted audiences, the outage was more than annoying. According to Fortune, Facebook likely lost around $100 million dollars in revenue and took a major hit to their reputation.
What did advertisers lose? Time, revenue, and confidence.
Takeaway #1: Every Second Counts–And Costs
There’s no good time for an ad platform outage. But the fourth quarter is an undeniably bad time for retailers to have the most popular one go dark. With the holidays fast approaching, holly jolly ad campaigns are launching into full swing. Competition is fierce. And getting in front of consumers early is especially important this year, due to increasing problems in the shipping industry.
According to an article from The Atlantic, one importer of consumer goods that used to pay $2,000 to $5,000 to ship a container of merchandise from China to the U.S. now has to pay $30,000 to receive it on the normal schedule. “You can get it down to $20,000 if you’re willing to deal with the possibility of your stuff arriving in a few months, or whenever space on a ship eventually opens up that’s not already accounted for by companies willing to pay more.”
Freelance media buyer David Herrmann told The New York Times, that “advertisers would continue to be shackled to Facebook because of its enormous size and reach.” But those shackles mean advertisers have no choice but to go along with the media giant when disaster strikes.
“One company that advertises exclusively on Facebook watched its revenue plunge 70 percent during the outage from the same period a week earlier, Mr. Herrmann said. Sales slipped 30 percent at another company, which spends $40,000 a day on ads.”
– The New York Times
With online shopping and online advertising in a pandemic world, every second counts – and costs.
Takeaway #2: Stay On Top of News About Facebook Legal and Security Issues
Any time someone describes their experience with a business partner as being “shackled,” you can assume they’re not expecting good treatment from their counterpart. And, after all, that’s what Facebook is supposed to be for brands – a partner that helps them grow their reach and target audiences.
But other recent issues have had the general public, legislators, and advertisers wondering if the platform is hiding more insidious secrets. In early October, 2021, a former Facebook data scientist testified before congress that the platform “coveted young users, despite health concerns.” She also reported that that “Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, misstated and omitted key details about what was known about Facebook and Instagram’s ability to cause harm,” concerning use of its platform during the January 6, 2021 capitol siege.
In February of 2021, TechCrunch reported on unsealed court documents that showed “Facebook knew for years ad reach estimates were based on ‘wrong data’ but blocked fixes over revenue impact, per court filing.” Amongst the platform’s other legal troubles is a federal antitrust lawsuit that claims Facebook’s acquisitions of other social media platforms is creating a monopoly for the platform and that it has purposely kept its competitors from “plugging into the Facebook platform, starving competition from accessing Facebook’s vast user base. “
The early October outage of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp is just another in a chain of dark events for the social media behemoth. And it’s creating even more concerns about internal security at Facebook. The Associated Press highlighted the concerns of a London-based internet monitoring firm.
“The company’s plans to integrate the technology behind its platforms — announced in 2019 — had raised concerns about the risks of such a move. While such centralization “gives the company a unified view of users’ internet usage habits,” Netblocks said, it also makes the services vulnerable to single points of failure.”
– The Associated Press
While Facebook and its sister products can produce great results for advertisers, it’s still a walled data garden with its own dungeon of secrets. Advertisers should stay wary and pay attention to industry news around the platform. If you rely heavily on Facebook for your revenue, keep your eyes wide open and consider the next takeaway.
Takeaway #3: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Facebook Basket
While literally every online news source, Tweet, and late night personality has something to say about the Facebook outage, the advice for advertisers is slim. But one thing rings true: diversification.
Paid advertising doesn’t have to be an either or scenario: either you’re shackled to the ad platform or your revenue is in shambles. Nope. In a recent webinar and e-book, Lumenad digital advertising expert Alex Deuel discussed the importance of diversifying ad campaigns. “Diversifying your campaigns — spreading your ads out on more than one or two platforms an audience is likely to visit — is vital to optimizing your client’s ad spend,” she explained.
There’s never been a better time to rethink, revise, or simply just review your channel and platform strategy. Advertisers who aren’t willing to create a multi-channel approach to their ad campaigns may, indeed, feel shackled to the likes of Facebook and Google. “If you’re not evolving with the industry and with what your audience is doing,” says Deuel, “then you’re not doing yourself, your campaign, or your client any justice.”