The Facebook Outage: What Can Businesses Learn?

As a design and digital agency, we see the many business benefits of Facebook.

However, the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram outage on Monday 4th October was a real eye opener. For nearly six hours, the social network, and its heavyweight subsidiaries, were offline and people across the globe were up in arms.

Many people, both privately and commercially, rely on Facebook services to keep in contact with friends, family, and customers. So, when all the Facebook family of tools “go down” for nigh on half a day, it has a big impact.

The Facebook Outage: What Happened?

Reports started rolling in on social media on Monday afternoon. Not Facebook, obviously, because that was down. Twitter, however, stayed robust and remained the de facto channel for the updates on the Facebook news.

Users started complaining that they couldn’t log in to Facebook, Instagram or use WhatsApp. Indeed, all the services were inaccessible to us too.

It wasn’t just the UK either. The outage was a worldwide phenomenon.

With nearly 3 billion Facebook users, over 1 billion monthly Instagram users, and 2 billion WhatsApp users, the outage locked out nearly half the world’s population.

What happened was not, as some conspiracy theories say, an outage to deflect from the whistle-blower story that made the news the previous week, but a genuine technical issue.

Facebook and all its related services work on an autonomous system (AS), Facebook has its own networks of servers and systems. These then connect to the wider world via Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). In layman’s terms, BGP is a set of instructions that decide the fastest and most efficient route to connect one system to another.

Basically, Facebook’s BGP broke down, leaving Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp inaccessible to the outside world for a quarter of a day.

The firm’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised for the outage before the company’s own tech department issued a statement.

What Can Digital Marketers and Businesses Learn from the Outage?

Lets’ the first point very clear:

  1. This was a rare occurrence. There are always issues with downtime and connections but that’s why tech vendors’ Service Level Agreements (SLAs) usually offer 99.9% uptime not 100% – In the grand scheme of things that’s 8 hours and 45 minutes downtime out of over half a billion minutes (8,760 hours) in a year.

    This was also a high-profile occurrence, plus also a far-reaching problem. The story made the headlines across the globe, and as we mentioned earlier, affected half the world’s population.

  2. Mitigate your IT risks. In commercial terms, you need a plan to ensure business continuity, whether that’s for you as design and digital agency or a company that conducts all it’s marketing activity online.

    This downtime could happen again, so always be prepared for it. Have risk mitigation and contingency plans, because there are other networks and potential issues that could affect your online actions.

    Ensure you have a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for your own website, security measures such as both software and physical firewalls, that your sites are up-to-date and backed up, ready to restore, and that your hosting supplier is ready to help out when you require it.

  3. Have a Broad Digital Marketing Mix. Again, mitigating your risks, make sure you’ve not got “all your eggs in one basket”. If you rely solely on Facebook advertising for brand awareness or generating business leads, then you’d have had an empty pipeline for 6 hours. Can you afford that?

    If not, then make sure that you pursue an omnichannel marketing strategy, and ensure that you’ve distributed your ad spend across all the other relevant/successful channels too. Obviously, WhatsApp and Instagram ads would have been down during this time. However, your digital marketing experts should have some Google Ads, Bing Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn channels all buzzing with activity under the PPC management you pay them for.

  4. Always Organic. How was your organic traffic during the Facebook downtime? It was still there. It’s always there. When paid social and other pay-per-click services go down, all the valuable work you’ve conducted on making your website search engine friendly pays dividends.

    By continually working on your search engine optimisation (SEO) you are giving your websites and organic landing pages the very best chance to stand out in the non-paid search results.

    Search results were there before Web 2.0 and organic traffic should continue to play a significant part in generating brand awareness and delivering relevant traffic.

In the words of Douglas Adam’s great work, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy;

“I like the cover,” he said. “Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”

Or, to put the sentiment and instruction in a more positive light, the British wartime advice is:

“Keep calm and carry on!”

The guidance from Clever Marketing is to keep a steady hand on the tiller of your digital activity. Review your digital marketing strategy, conduct an audit of your processes, procedures & systems, and plan for any likelihood of this happening again.

If it’s not a single mis-typed digit in a BGP command, then it could be solar storm affecting North Atlantic sub-sea internet cables and repeaters, or fires affecting power cables or data centres.

Be ready and “expect the unexpected”.


Clever Marketing, full service digital agency. Clever Marketing, as an award-winning design and digital agency, is always available to discuss your business plan and your digital marketing strategy. A strong mix of SEO, PPC and paid social will ensure your business continues to generate leads.

Call us on 01276 534 680 or complete the easy contact form.

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