Business continuity in the absence of social media
Business on social media
In this era, social media is the primary means of communication for businesses to reach and engage with their customers, promote their products and services, and build awareness around their brand.
Social media platforms offer many benefits for small businesses such as:
- Cost-effective marketing tools that have a massive user base enabling businesses to reach a large and diverse audience
- Easy-to-use features that help create content and interact with customers
- Analytics tools that measure performance and help optimize strategies
- Networking opportunities that help build relationships with others
- Customer feedback channels that help improve products and services
Despite the attractive benefits, social media platforms are not invincible and can experience unexpected downtimes due to technical problems, cyberattacks, or natural disasters. So while social media platforms are essential tools for businesses, relying on them solely can have its drawbacks.
Over the past years, we witnessed several major incidents that disrupted the social media platforms consequently disrupting the lives of billions of users and a huge number of businesses across the world:
- In November 2022, many Instagram accounts were suspended and others were showing a significant decrease in the number of followers.
- In October 2022, a technical glitch caused the number of followers to be displayed wrongly on the influencers’ Facebook pages (Snapshot from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Page). Followers were also able to post freely on the timeline of influencers, although posting is usually limited to the account admin(s).
- In October 2022, WhatsApp stopped working for more than 2 hours.
- In October 2021, Facebook (later rebranded to Meta) and its family of apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, went down globally for close to six hours due to a configuration change that coordinates network traffic between the company’s data centers.
- In August 2020, Zoom platform faced a partial outage that affected users in the US and Europe for about four hours due to a network issue. The outage disrupted online classes, meetings and events that relied on Zoom.
- In March 2019, Facebook and its family of apps experienced a major outage that lasted for 24 hours due to a server configuration change.
- In June 2019, a network issue on Google Cloud affected several Google services such as Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive and Google Maps. Other apps and websites that rely on Google Cloud services were also affected, such as Snapchat, Spotify and Uber. The outage lasted for about four hours.
- In July 2019, Twitter experienced a partial outage that prevented users globally from accessing the platform or posting tweets for about an hour due to an internal configuration change.
These incidents show how vulnerable social media platforms are to various factors that can cause them to go offline or behave abnormally.
While the incidents mentioned previously serve as strong reminders why businesses must explore alternative communication channels beyond social media platforms, it is crucial to recognize that there are additional factors to consider.
Here are some additional points to ponder when relying heavily on social media platforms:
- Lack of control over the platforms’ policies, algorithms and technical issues that can affect visibility, reach and functionality of businesses.
- High competition from other businesses and content creators that can reduce customer attention span and loyalty.
- Risk of negative reviews, complaints or trolls that can damage reputation and trust.
- Vulnerability to cyberattacks or data breaches that can compromise security and privacy (this applies to alternative all online platforms).
- Data ownership and privacy concerns: Platforms have valuable customer data, but businesses are limited on how they can utilize that data for their own purposes. Additionally, privacy concerns surrounding data security and user consent can arise, potentially affecting customer trust.
- Potential decline in platform popularity: Platforms that are popular today may lose their prominence in the future and users can easily shift to other platforms.
- Lack of direct customer ownership: Businesses do not have direct ownership of their customer relationships on social media platforms.
Given all of the above considerations, businesses must diversify their online presence and communication channels to reduce their exposure to potential risks and ensure business continuity during social media downtime.
By leveraging a combination of social media platforms, websites, email marketing, and other relevant channels, businesses can maintain greater control over their branding, messaging, and customer relationships. This enhances their resilience and ensures uninterrupted operations in the face of unfavourable situations.
Here are some practical measures that can be taken:
- Conduct a business impact analysis to identify critical business processes and the resources that support them.
- Identify and document the steps required to recover critical business functions and processes when downtimes and technical issues occur.
- Create a business continuity team: Identify the key people and assign the tasks needed to manage a business disruption.
- Conduct regular training for the team and regular testing of the plan to evaluate the recovery strategies.
- Diversify social media presence on different platforms.
- Build an email list of your customers and use it to communicate with them in the event of social media downtime.
- Invest in a website to promote your products or services and communicate with customers. A website also provides complete control over your brand image and messaging.
- Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage customer relationships effectively. It can be used to store customer information, communicate with customers, and track customer interactions.
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