Facebook outage no laughing matter

The general reaction to the Facebook service outage was one of mirth but the tone of the response reflects the social network's shifting relevance in today's world.

The brief Facebook outage yesterday morning sent the masses fleeing to Twitter and it didn’t take long for the hashtags #facebookdown and #facebook to fill up with tweets, mostly tongue in cheek, of an apocalyptic tone.

While the 20 minute outage was enough for some to label it “a brief and horrific glimpse of what life would look like without the social networking giant,” it was at least a reflection of Facebook’s shifting relevance in today’s world.  

The general reaction from the denizens of the net was one of mirth , rather than despair and the fact is that Facebook is now much more than just a vehicle for navel-gazing users to share photos of their brunches.

The narcissists and bandwagoners are moving away from Facebook in favour of more wide reaching platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Why post a selfie to just your ‘friends’, when you can hashtag it and reach millions of potential admirers worldwide.

The social network is arguably the most effective way for businesses to connect with their customers. And an outage on Facebook is no laughing matter for them.  

Facebook now has one million active advertisers, the vast majority of whom are small businesses utilising the platform to communicate with a wider niche audience, and many millions more have free pages on the site for people to 'like'.

While some may consider Facebook a vapid waste of time, businesses are taking the platform seriously. A significant outage can translate to quantifiable losses of business.

Considering advertising makes up 85 per cent of Facebook’s revenue, the incentive for the listed entity to avoid such outages is equally pertinent.

Facebook currently retains 70 per cent of the market share, according to a recent Pew Research Centre survey in the US, but the appeal of the social network is changing.

Facebook is a platform with a far more mainstream an  audience, most notably time-rich retirees, who have conceded that the only way to find out what their families are up to is to sign up to the site.

This emerging, and somewhat naïve, demographic presents advertisers with an excellent target, a refreshing antidote to the cynical social media natives who can see straight through a campaign.

Facebook news feeds are less about narcissism and more about curation – ‘liking’ your favourite TV show, social campaigns, brands and keeping informed of their activities – and this is what businesses are tapping into.

Advertising is now seamlessly weaved into news feeds it can be confusing to discriminate between what you ‘like’ and what is being suggested to you, which makes it even more effective.

The future of Facebook is far from certain, and it’s unlikely to look anything like it does today. Climbing up that maturity curve will see the platform’s relevance change over time and that should put a whole new spin on whether a Facebook outage is truly the end of the world.