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Americans “Rang 911” When Facebook Went Down

They say that you reap what you sow.

This is clearly shown in an entertaining bit of recent news from our friends across the Atlantic.
From a young age we are trained by our parents and teachers to respond to situations of emergency by immediately contacting the emergency services.

Written By
Dan Partridge

From a young age we are trained by our parents and teachers to respond to situations of emergency by immediately contacting the emergency services. Those three numbers – 999 in the UK; 911 in the US – are synonymous with responding to situations of emergency.

It’s perhaps not entirely surprising, then, to hear that several Americans “Rang 911” when Facebook went down on the 1st August. If Mark Zuckerberg needed further evidence that Facebook has indeed embedded itself into the very fabric of our lives then surely 911 calls when it went down would be just that.

I don’t know how you feel about the news that Americans rang 911 when Facebook went down.

However, the fact that people were prepared to seek emergency help to overcome the unavailability of a website teaches us a number of valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: People ‘Need’ Facebook

Whilst this extreme response probably tells us more about the individuals’ flawed attitude towards the emergency services than their internet usage, it’s clear that Facebook plays a very important part in many of our lives. Most of us use social media in some way. Some of us deliberately avoid it. Others choose to take occasional breaks to cut distractions/noise out of their lives.

What we cannot escape, though, is the fact that a simple website has a huge grip on our lives. It has changed the way that we socialise, relax and do business. The internet has become a permanent fixture in our daily routines. When it’s taken away, we feel a deep sense of loss.

Whilst the ‘need’ for Facebook is not a literal one, when it’s taken away we feel bereaved. This tells us that websites have the potential to connect with people in an unrivaled way. As website designers this resonates with us; websites are more than just incidental parts of our lives and businesses. They are very important indeed.

Lesson 2: Down Time = Lost Business

Facebook was down for around 30 minutes on the 1st August. Analysts estimate that Facebook effectively lost advertising revenues of $400-$500,000 in this time.

Whilst this is a relatively small amount for a company of Facebook’s size, revenue losses would have been kept to a minimum by the skilled teams of engineers working frantically to get Facebook back online.

Nevertheless, it’s apparent that down time = lost business. This is true for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

If you’re an Ecommerce business then you cannot sell your products if your website is down. Whilst Ecommerce allows us to connect with customers 24/7 this isn’t possible if your website isn’t working.

Even if you’ve got a simple brochure website – and you’re reliant on word-of-mouth for much of your business – down time is still very damaging. It means that people cannot find your website and are therefore unable to bring their business to you during that time period.

Lesson 3: Downtime Can Be Minimised

Every website experiences downtime. It’s impossible to avoid. Whilst Facebook have managed to avoid universal downtime for around 4 years, even a website of this magnitude will experience downtime once in a while.

However, downtime can be minimised. By working with a web design agency with dedicated support and high-quality hosting you’ll keep downtime to an absolute minimum and avoid any unwanted blackouts.

Minimising downtime is good for your reputation, good for your revenues, and, in extreme circumstances, good for the emergency services.

Image: “Social Media apps” by Jason Howie on Flickr (Creative Commons)

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