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Facebook and Instagram outage pose challenges for small business

As business increasingly relies on social media, service disruptions are no laughing matter
AngieYeoh /

On Wednesday, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down for many users. They couldn’t post, refresh feeds or answer messages.

For those who use the social messaging sites for personal use, the outage was a minor inconvenience; maybe even a welcome forced break or detox. But for businesses that rely on these apps to communicate with customers, it was more complicated.

“It was unfortunate because as a new business we want to make sure we provide excellent customer service and not being able to update our community or answer questions quickly can be fairly damaging. Especially when you are just starting out,” said Pierrick Tanguay, manager at Bonus Bakery, the new plant-based bakery in downtown Vancouver.

“Imagine if someone was planning to drive from Langley to come to our store but was asking if we had a particular item. We can't answer, that person not only doesn't come but has a bad impression about us. Or someone wants to order a catering order and we miss out on it. Any order counts for us,” said Tanguay.

Companies who had planned a campaign, opening. or promotion for March 13 experienced a much more pronounced hit.

Wonghaus Ventures planned to run a Facebook and Instagram ad campaign to promote the restock of false eyelashes, and have influencers post sponsored content.

The posts went up, but company owner Jason Wong told media that few people saw them. He estimates the outage cost his company around $10,000 in revenue.

Verge reporter Ashley Carman put it well: “the outage is as if billboards and radio ads disappeared from a city, and no one could find the stores where the advertised products are anyway.”

On Thursday, Facebook's own stock fell nearly 3% in early morning trading as Wall Street reacted to the outage.

The failure sparked more calls for Facebook to sell companies like Instagram and WhatsApp so that when one platform goes down, it doesn’t have such a big effect. Twitter saw a spike in activity during the 14 hours where the other platforms were down.

“You really notice how much you use Instagram and Facebook for your business when you can't actually use those sites because they're both down. #instagramdown #FacebookDown,” posted Mom & Pop Photography on Twitter.

While eventually we may see more separation between Facebook owned networking sites, in the short term, it’s an important reminder for businesses to diversify their advertising strategy and not put all their eggs into one digital basket.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]