Facebook Inc blamed a "faulty configuration change" for a nearly six-hour outage on Monday that prevented the company's 3.5 billion users from accessing its social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.
Social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were down for nearly six hours on October 4, the large-scale outage leaving users in the lurch.
Among users, brands and creators felt the impact more as business was affected for them.
“Being in the social media industry, we had multiple ongoing campaigns, which had to be made live by the end of October 4 on Instagram. With the Instagram app not working, this was a major setback not just for us but for the creators and the brands as well,” said Neha Puri, CEO and founder, Vavo Digital, an influencer marketplace.
It is estimated Instagram had around 180 million users as of July 2021 in India, making the country its top market.
“The dependency on these platforms to get the content across in time owing to the competitive festive period is massive and it (the outage) led to a major setback. Everyone's expectation was that the platforms might have been down for a couple of minutes; however, this is the longest downtime we have experienced, which is also a learning for the brands and us,” added Puri.
According to a 2019 report by Buzzoka, an influencer marketing platform, which covered 237 brand custodians, the usage of Instagram is one of the highest, with 94 percent marketers preferring it as a medium.
Another survey in 2019 conducted by WatConsult found that more than 75 percent of shoppers had a satisfactory experience while shopping via Instagram and a majority said they would do so again. The survey had a sample size of 1,917 respondents.
Along with Instagram, WhatsApp's outage also impacted brands.
“Owing to the sudden outage that WhatsApp witnessed last evening, B2C (business to customer) customers felt the heat the most during Flipkart's BBD (Big Billion Days) and Amazon's Great Indian Festival, prompting us to wonder if this will recur again for Singles Day (no longer confined to China) or Black Friday Sale (US audience)," said Madhura Moulik, co-founder, Skilfinity, a digital marketing consulting firm.
She added that some B2B (business to business) platforms too were affected. “I have a few B2B clients whose campaign monitoring accessibility was compromised. What was going on in the market was absolutely unknown to all of us,” said Moulik.
Adding to this, Sathya Kumar, vice-president, consulting and account management, Zensciences, a digital marketing agency, said, “While we have a distributed digital media strategy, it was a setback as the bulk of the audience is present on these platforms. It would be important for us to understand the impact that this outage has had on their data centres and the cascading effect for the user-heavy holiday season that's coming up.”
Rikki Agarwal, co-founder and chief business and operating officer, Blink Digital, said that the planned campaigns were put on hold as no one had a clue on what was happening until Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp took to Twitter to confirm the outage from their end.
Puri said the outage highlighted the need to work on contingency models to mitigate the losses that occur due to such situations.
Moulik added, “Diversifying the media mix buy has been on the cards for years, especially in light of Apple’s iOS 14 data privacy changes, yet companies keep returning to the realm of Facebook because of its scale.”
Facebook has an estimated 357 million users in India. For WhatsApp, India is the platform's biggest market with around 340 million users. And these platforms attract strong traffic in India.
A December 2020 report by SEMRUSH, an online visibility management SaaS platform, noted that Facebook ranked third in terms of traffic in India with 599 million total visits, followed by Instagram at rank 10 with 225 million total visits and WhatsApp at 13 with 160 million total visits.