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  • Tim Burrows

What You Should Have Learned From The Facebook & Instagram Failures

March 13, 2019, was an interesting day for social media communicators. What do you do when two of the biggest communications platforms crash simultaneously?

According to reactions on the Twitter firehose during the #facebookdown, #Instagramdown reactions ranged from panic, anger and confusion to relaxation, joy and serenity.

I’m sure some of the reactions were real while others were slightly exaggerated but no matter how the outages impacted you personally, they should have sent you a clear message that it’s time to review your communications strategy.

For me the outage couldn’t have come at a worse time. I was just starting to teach a session on Facebook safety, privacy and use to a group of police leaders.

“Facebook is an incredible tool. Seriously, really… believe me; oh boy.” Want to see me tap-dance?

Time to pivot.

When I’m working with agencies I talk about having a multi-social media platform strategy. The primary ones I recommend are: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Nextdoor.

You pick the ones that work best for you and your audience.

I give each one a priority based on capabilities, function and need then work out from there.

But, social media can never be your communications strategy. Social is part of a bigger picture.

Email, websites, SMS tools, social media, face-to-face, ham radio, carrier pigeon and even the dusty old fax machine must be considered in the tool box for your communication strategy.

How are you going to get information out to your audience when technology failure happens?

Anything that is technology based is at risk of failure and if you are completely honest and planning properly, susceptible to terror attack and sabotage.

OK, carrier pigeon may be a little much but judging by some of the Twitter melt downs that were happening you might as well consider the end of the world.

Jump over to Nextdoor and it wasn’t even professional communicators having issues. Some people had no idea how to cope without their Facebook groups and gossip and let everyone know over there.

PS - Facebook down is not a valid Nextdoor Urgent Alert.

The failure of the two platforms on the grand scale of things should have meant nothing other than an adjustment or pivot to your other channels and means of communication.

I’ve worked with many agencies that have made the choice to use only one or two social media platforms and there is no problem with that as long as they have a robust plan that includes other means to communicate.

During my pivot while teaching I used it not just as an example of what could go wrong but included how to plan for failure.

Not just the tech failure but what about a crisis event that wipes out your ability to communicate with the public.

Plans to have other agencies or people to grab your ball and run with it.

Being in Missouri at the time, it was easy to set the stage for a natural event scenario that could completely overwhelmed an agencies abilities and or resources to communicate.

Partnerships, other stakeholders, support infrastructure and resources. Have you considered them? Have you planned them out?

Waiting won’t work. Trying to create a plan on the fly during an event won’t work.

Agencies that have eliminated emailing press releases because they do everything on social media have an issue.

Agencies that utilize just one or two social media platforms have an issue.

Any agency that becomes reliant on just one method of communicating has an issue.

As much as social media has been a game changer for accessibility and reach in your communications efforts, the base game and fundamentals haven’t changed.

Get the right information to the right people at the right time using the right medium so that they can make the right decisions. If you are looking to increase your social media and communications effectiveness, feel free to reach out to me. I'd be glad to help. You can email me or look to see if there is training coming up in your area.

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