Reflections on Facebook’s 6-Hour Social Media Apocalypse

by | Oct 8, 2021 | Blog, Digital Strategy, Smirk's Take, Social Media

October 4th was Facebook’s worst nightmare, a “social media apocalypse” in the middle of a global scandal. Users were left refreshing their empty feeds for nearly 6 hours as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp experienced a worldwide outage.

This week’s event is the worst disruption the platforms had experienced since 2019, when they were down for nearly 24 hours. An outage of this scale isn’t just an inconvenience — when Facebook goes down, businesses lose billions.

So What Happened?

What caused these social media heavy-hitters to crash just before noon on a Monday? Facebook execs are ensuring the public that this isn’t due to any malicious attack — according to them, it was simply a configuration issue (and definitely had nothing to do with that whistle-blower’s ongoing testimony).


Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.

Santosh Janardhan
Facebook ​​VP, Infrastructure

Advertisers Feel the Impact of Facebook’s Outage

Once their platforms got back online, it became clear that all Facebook products and services had been affected by the disruption. Smirk’s client campaigns on Facebook and Instagram were also impacted.

Facebook confirmed in a blog post that ads weren’t running and advertisers weren’t charged for any active campaigns during the outage. Still, the unexpected loss of engagement, site traffic and sales were palpable for many brands. One company told the New York Times that its revenue crashed 70 percent during the 6 hours that Facebook and Instagram were offline.

Once it became clear that this event would last longer than a few minutes, the Smirk team snapped into action to rework content calendars, communicate with clients and develop a plan to offset any losses by leveraging other platforms not controlled by Facebook.

All Eyes on Twitter

With the inability to update users on their own site and apps, Facebook was forced to turn to another platform, its long-time nemesis, to update their users on the status of their issues.

facebook's tweets

With their competitors incapacitated, Twitter capitalized on the large spike in activity on their platform.

Twitter's tweet
Major brands across a surprising number of industries scrambled to get their hot takes in.
McDonald's Tweet
Oscar Mayer's Tweet
Sim's Tweet
Zoom Tweet

Smirk’s Take

October 4th was one big “oh crap” moment for brands that rely solely on one or two interdependent platforms for their current digital strategy.

The solution to avoiding disaster business events like this is tried and true: don’t put all your eggs in one basket owned by Mark Zuckerberg.

As Oklahoma’s original digital agency, Smirk has been helping brands navigate Zuckerberg’s triumphs and scandals for over a decade — since the dawn of Facebook’s initial business products and services.

Brands must diversify their digital presence across different platforms beyond Facebook and Instagram to develop a competitive marketing strategy that’s built to win long-term.

If your business runs solely on traffic from Instagram, what would happen to your revenue if the platform was wiped from the Internet tomorrow? Facebook and Instagram still hold tremendous marketing and advertising value, but we want more security for your business.

Start diversifying by thinking about where your target audiences spend their time online, the features and costs associated with different platforms. Consider social platforms as well as search marketing, email marketing, text campaigns and other avenues to build website traffic, develop engaged audiences, nurture leads and generate sales.

Your Digital Partner

If you’re excited to leave this blog and diversify your brand’s digital presence, we’re here to support you on that journey. Smirk focuses on digital services to ensure we’re on top of the latest changes and executing winning strategies for our brand partners. When platforms constantly change, new laws or regulations are considered or new features roll out that could impact your business positively or negatively, we’re here to help develop the strategy that puts your business one step ahead. Click here to schedule a chat with a member of Smirk’s team about how your business can grow online.