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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Why Facebook’s big outage shook small businesses, content creators

When Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for six hours, it also meant a loss of revenue for small businesses and creators who are dependent on it for their income and sales.

Written by Mehab Qureshi | Pune |
October 8, 2021 5:17:43 pm
Facebook, Facebook outage, Facebook down, Facebook not working, Instagram outage, Instagram not working, WhatsApp downThe icons of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp can be seen on the screen of a smartphone in Kempten, Germany, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. The six-hour outage of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp on Monday was a headache for many casual users. But the outage was far more serious for many people worldwide who rely on the social media sites to communicate with relatives, friends and neighbours and run their businesses. (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa via AP)

Facebook’s six-hour outage on Monday, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg termed as one of the worst in many years, affected millions of users who could not use the company’s three key apps: WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook. But for some, this outage was also a major setback in terms of their income.

“Festivals are approaching and people mostly shop in the evening. So small online businesses and re-sellers were amongst the worst affected,” according to Judy Morris, a travel and lifestyle blogger who spoke to indianexpress.com.

Neha Puri, CEO and founder of Vavo Digital, an influencer marketing company, concurred, adding that small businesses heavily rely on social media for their brand promotions and sales.

“When a shop/store is shut down for a particular period, the shopkeeper incurs losses, similarly, when major social media platforms were down for over 7 hours, small businesses lost potential customers. Moreover, this created an environment of insecurity for the small businesses— who are dependent on these platforms to get their content across in time, especially during the competitive festive period,” she pointed out.

Given that it is the festive season in India, digital advertising, especially on social media sees a boost. But the outage impacted these efforts negatively.  “Small advertisers who were scaling up their campaigns. But the outage meant they had to take a hit on both spending and scale. The disruption majorly happened in the evening hence the damage was significant for that time period,” Nitin Sabharwal, COO, India Operations, Optimise Media said adding that the outage also meant that most influencers faced issues in posting resulting in delayed campaign postings.

While advertisers were all supportive, engagement rates and posts took a huge hit for influencers during the outage. Puri pointed out that influencers experienced uncertainty in the algorithm of Facebook and Instagram during the disruption period.

“Influencers that had 250k+ views in general, received around 5k views on their posts. On the other hand, the follower count of some influencers increased by 90K. Hence, the platforms’ algorithms also seemed to have been affected by the outrage which left us in a situation of uncertainty,” she pointed out.

Ankit Agarwal, founder of Do Your Thng, a creator-first tech platform said that platforms like Instagram are the backbone of the creator economy, and the Facebook outage was a bone-jarring wake-up call for creators.

“When they go offline, content creators don’t just lose touch with their audience, which adversely affects engagement, they also lose their primary source of income. For creators, especially smaller ones, not being able to post sponsored content on the scheduled hour can equate to no or delayed payment,” he explained.

Puri notes that presence across multiple social media platforms is the need of the hour. “There need to be contingency plans to mitigate the losses that occur due to such situations. Brands and content creators must not just focus on one platform, but be active across all platforms. This not only helps in grabbing a larger audience but also helps in informing their followers about the further plan in such situations,” she adds.

Still, as Agarwal highlights content creators have little control of their livelihoods because they are essentially renting space on social media platforms.

“They don’t own it. That’s not to say there wasn’t a positive side to it. When you live and breathe on Instagram, an outage is like a rainy day and an opportunity to take a much-needed break,” he said.

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