Social media has grown to become an integral part of many business marketing plans. As the web continues to draw strength from being more social, businesses have had to adapt to have a stronger presence where consumers are spending their time. In September 2013, Pew Research found 73 percent of adults using the Internet also use social networking sites. [1] Additionally, it is anticipated by some that 2020 2.95 billion people globally will be using social media. [2]

That is an amazingly growing audience companies can tap into.

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These days social networks have also become more than a "presence", they have evolved to become an active method of communication between business and consumer. As a result, many companies actively depend upon the availability of social media networks being operable. Any level of social media downtime can potentially result in negative effects for businesses.

Businesses and Social Media Marketing

A number of businesses actively market their offerings on social media. For instance, in 2013 it was reported 33 percent of consumers had discovered brands on social media. [3] It is no surprise that all types of organizations, both for-profits and nonprofits, seek to have a presence on social media. Additionally, once discovered, either through search or social media referrals, consumers often turn to social media to interact with these brands.

social media marketing
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Impact When Social Media Crashes

Today's virtual society has evolved to the point where people depend on social network sites. From a consumer standpoint, customers expect to see updated information and/or have queries to brands answered in a timely fashion. When an outside platform beyond the company's control crashes, this can have a significant ripple effect.

For instance, back in Sept. 2010, Facebook suffered a major outage and remained dark for about 2.5 hours. [4] Fortunately, the problem was resolved relatively quickly, but still that is more than two hours that could have led to high levels of consumer frustration and hindered organizational productivity. Consider that now, in 2016, there are more than 1 billion registered members on this one network alone, hundreds of millions of which are active users. That is a lot of potential visibility businesses lose and a large number of consumers who cannot connect with businesses during an outage.

In March 2014, Twitter crashed at a very inopportune and highly visible time for the social micro-blogging site. The outage occurred at the precise time Twitter co-founder Biz Stone was getting ready to head on stage at the South by Southwest media festival in Austin. [5] This crash came on the heels of an earlier one on March 2. While the impact on Twitter itself is obvious, it could have an effect on other brands too. For instance, a survey conducted in late 2011 found consumers expect brands to address their complaints issued via Tweet. If service goes down, or is intermittent, this could have longer reaching effects.

According to statistics compiled by Social Media Today, while Facebook still leads the pack, and Twitter is considered to be a leader as well, other social networks, such as Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, continue to grow in popularity. [3] Companies should be mindful of any potential ways outages by any of these sites could impact their business processes, including customer service.

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Consumers frequently turn to their preferred social networks to reach out to brands to give feedback, ask questions or simply comment. If the networks become unavaiable, how high of an impact does it have on the business' ability to provide customer service?

Always Have a Back-Up Plan

Not putting all one's eggs in the proverbial basket also applies to online networking. It is not uncommon for both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations to rely upon the availability of social media websites.

During Facebook's 2010 outage, Kym McNichols wrote on Forbes:

"Do I sound bitter? Maybe because I can't access several important contacts, and have nothing better to do than blog at this point. Lesson learned...always have a back-up plan!"

That statement was made six years ago and today social networks have become even more integrated in daily life. This statement perhaps encompasses what many organizations feel even today when a social network crashes.

Social media outages not only impact communication and productivity, it could also have a negative impact on advertisers. When networks go down, ads purchased by marketers also lose visibility during the outage. Bottom line, both social media companies and businesses using these platforms should always employ a backup plan.

Internet of Things (IoT) and DDoS Attacks

Our growing reliance of IoT also plays a role. For instance, DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks continue to be a problem and, according to some reports, are on the uptick. It is not uncommon for online networks to be a target in these exploits. For instance, in October 2016 a major DDoS attack occurred, causing outages for Twitter and Reddit, to name two websites affected (I remember trying to log onto Twitter that morning myself). As our technology-centric society continues to include more and more smart appliances and other devices, this can have a direct effect on businesses since they are being used to bring down websites. 

IoT/Internet of Things
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IoT helps things run seemlessly, but has it had or will it have too high a level of intended effects? 

 When those websites are social networks, it goes back to the ripple effect it can have on other businesses. Securing smart appliances and gadgets will need to become a high priority in order to alleviate some of these attacks, or at least lessen the impact since exploiters often seem to be able to stay ahead of the game.

However, these outages do highlight to organizations that companies should never place all their eggs in one proverbial basket. There should always be a back-up plan for any aspect of business, social media networks included.

[ Related Reading: Rise of the Internet of Things - How 'Smart' of a World Should We Build? ]