‘Hello literally everyone’ – when Facebook is down, a PR opportunity comes up

5 October 2021  |  Insights
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At first we all thought it was just a temporary outage. A few hours later Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram were still down. Plenty of time for brands to jump onto Twitter and make the most of this unforeseen set of circumstances.

A very ‘knowing’ series of tweets followed. Many of the big names joined in, from McDonald’s to Netflix to Tesco, as if they’d all turned up to the same party.

No one knew exactly when services would be online again, but for social media managers across the world the wheels were set in motion to think creatively and quickly.

So what can we learn from this from a PR perspective?

Here are three quick thoughts:

Be quick

The birth of social media meant the news cycle has become more rapid and unpredictable. When a big event like the outage of Facebook’s apps occurs, and you see an opportunity to speak into it, you need to act quickly.

Be creative

Memes and witty takes are the lifeblood of social media. Sky News collated some of the most popular during the outage. Netflix used a still from one its shows to poke fun at the fact that Twitter was now the go to social channel. When prompted, Twitter ‘ordered’ 59.6 million nuggets from McDonald’s. It was all very light hearted, but increasing brand affinity in such unusual circumstances.

Be careful

When you’re trying to jump on a bandwagon like this, it’s very easy to slip into the wrong attitude, and simply think: what’s in it for me. This isn’t a time to push a hard sell, by telling people to just go to your website and buy your products instead of being on Facebook. Instead you need to add a bit more subtlety and humility. Most people come to social media for entertainment anyway, so what are you going to add to the mix that doesn’t show you’re taking yourself too seriously?

While many brands made the most of this PR opportunity, Facebook itself was undoubtedly not having its best day. The service outages came less than a day after former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen appeared on US TV show 60 Minutes. On the programme, she revealed how she copied tens of thousands of pages of Facebook internal research and that the social media giant prioritises ‘growth over safety.’

Even if big brands like these have huge budgets, they’re not immune from PR crises – no one is immune. It’s how you respond and what you learn from such events that’s most important.

Written by Andrew Horton, Head of Content, Jersey Road PR.


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