What Can Marketers and Advertisers Do to Protect Themselves From Social Media Outages?

Online outages like the one Facebook recently experienced are increasingly common. Levi Matkins, CEO at LifeStreet provides his insights into how advertisers should diversify their advertising platforms to reduce the impact of outages moving forward.

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When Facebook crashed last week, it lost an estimated $79 million in ad revenue, showing that outages can cause a severe impact on advertising campaigns and more specifically, to advertisers who choose to concentrate a large portion of their budget on a single advertising platform.

Of course, it would be crazy to suggest that advertisers actively move budgets away from social platforms. Instead, they need to know that diversification is the key to advertising successfully online. There are failure modes on every platform, but by reducing over reliance on a single platform, advertisers can maintain as much reach as possible during any unforeseen downtime. So, are there any social media platforms that advertisers are too eager to embrace, and should they look to diversify the social platforms they advertise on? Or, better yet, get outside of these familiar spaces and shake it up with new platforms and new ways in which to show off their content and market themselves.

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Social media, a golden oldie

Social media platforms, although often over-relied upon, carry a range of benefits for marketers. They allow for precise targeting of audiences on a massive scale. Indeed, 53% of the global population is on social media, among them 90% of Millennials and over three quarters of Gen-Xers, which goes to show the massive reach that advertisers can achieve through advertising on the right platforms.

However, even across social media platforms, Facebook heavily dominates marketers advertising campaigns compared with other channels. For example, 93% of them use Facebook, compared to only 9% using TikTok. This can be problematic for advertisers because of Facebook’s nature as a self-attributing ad network, meaning rather than allowing independent third-party tracking, SANs claim the effectiveness of their own media. And Facebook is so big that it comes under very limited pressure to add any analytic features to its toolkit for advertisers. So, it isn’t hard to see why advertising in the shadow of the social media giants can often be underpinned by threats to control and transparency.

It is also important to bear in mind that when outages hit social media sites, they also hit marketers where it hurts – in the wallet. For a performance marketer, every minute of site downtime is a minute of zero ad visibility and, therefore, a minute of potential lost revenue. In the age of trackable performance media, that actually means calculable lost profit for advertisers based on expected returns of media. This is why it is important for advertisers to move away from relying on one or two massive platforms to run such significant parts of a business. That way, when one website crashes, visibility is protected from dropping to zero.

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Mobile games, an untapped goldmine

The most obvious step in preventing these drop offs in visibility is extremely clear: diversify the ways in which you advertise online. As the Facebook outage showed, the networks of the social media giants are hugely interconnected, the result of this being that when one network is hit, ie. Facebook, all of its subsidiaries also become inaccessible, as was the case with WhatsApp and Instagram also being dragged down. Even the Facebook Audience Network (which extends Facebook buys to 3rd party sites) was affected by the outage.

One solution for marketers is to migrate part of their ad spending from traditional platforms onto newer forms of media, such as in-app mobile games. These are an area of huge potential for advertisers that is currently going untapped: according to App Annie’s 2021 State of Mobile Gaming Report, consumer spend in-app grew 20% year-on-year in 2020, whilst marketers’ spend on these platforms stagnated. This shows us just how much potential there is for in-app advertising.  That’s not to say gaming apps aren’t at risk from outages just like social media platforms, however, in using them, advertisers are able to spread the risk and add channels beyond the duopoly of Facebook and Google.

This growth in ad spend isn’t the only reason to steer a course for in-app advertising. Mobile is set to become the dominant media platform in the coming years. By 2022, 79% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video, while Comscore found that 75% of digital users consume all their social media, lifestyle, travel, news and utility content using mobile apps. Even today, in the US, the average person spends 4 hours a day using mobile apps, as app usage has surged ahead of traditional TV viewing. And these numbers are only set to grow as the mobile gold rush continues to gain pace.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Outages hit. There’s no two ways about it. And once a platform is down it can take hours for access to be restored, hours where brand advertisers’ money is being poured down the drain and performance marketers are losing out on potential revenue. The clear solution is for marketers to maintain a broad base and spread their budget across multiple platforms. That way, the impact of any outage is minimised and advertisers may actually be able to reap the rewards of increased traffic, just look at Twitter, it saw a 72% jump in user numbers during the recent Facebook outage.

As always, prevention is better than the cure, and the main thing advertisers can do is be prepared. By having plans in place in the event of outages, being up to date on digital marketing trends to make the most of any new advertising opportunities, and diversifying ad spend, advertisers can stay afloat when social media sites go down.

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