On Monday 4 October, billions of users found that for hours that day, they were unable to access Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. An outage of this scale, and for this long, is rare.

Not being able to remind your partner to take out the garbage was one thing, but what were the consequences for online publishers for whom the platform accounts for around 20% of their day to day traffic? This was no joke.

We looked at our clients’ data in order to compare the traffic of 4 October to traffic from an average Monday in 2021. What we saw was that publishers’ traffic via search was much higher during the Facebook outage - and traffic through Twitter increased significantly as well. That last part is obvious: when one social platform shuts down, people turn to the other. Nature abhors a vacuum, but so do social media users, apparently.

Tweet from Twitter during Facebook outage
Article reads via search

But what this actually indicates is that people were searching for news more than ever, and in particular the news around the Facebook outage.

How could our clients have known that people were searching for news on this issue? Well, they were notified by us. On the Facebook-related stories our clients created, they received real-time notifications saying that the traffic was much higher than their average numbers. They were also hinted that creating follow-up stories around this topic was a good idea to build more engagement.

And to our joy, we actually saw these follow-up stories being created. On 4 October, our tool was being used the most in the last 6 months. Compared to an average Monday in 2021, the usage during the Facebook outage was 27.4% higher.

Use of smartocto during Facebook outage 2

We saw journalists creating stories about how this issue could have happened, stories suggesting good alternatives for Whatsapp, stories on how this major issue affected Facebook’s market value. All of these fell into the ‘Give me perspective’ and ‘Educate me’ user need categories, and they’re absolutely relevant in a situation like this. People have questions about the whys and hows. They want information about when it’s likely to be fixed, and they want (if not need) to know what they can do in the meantime. Having to live without social media in times like these is, of course, unthinkable.

The notifications on these Facebook-related stories made it clear that the traffic on these articles was much higher on average than they were on other stories. To be more specific, we actually saw that 70% of Facebook-related stories had significantly more views than other stories, indicating that creating follow-ups on this topic was successfully bringing in a lot more (new) readers.

So, an issue of this size will always have an impact on your traffic and users. But it is possible to deal with something like this - and to do so well. And that’s where smartocto can be a huge help. We will alert you in real-time what kind of action you can take following a big, unexpected event. Are your readers searching for more information, for example? If they are, write follow-ups and guide them to your website. Do they want to be kept on trend, given perspective, inspired, diverted, updated, or educated? Write a story that addresses that need. And when you actually follow up on our notifications... Well, as you’ve seen, your results will grow.