At 9:22 a.m., EST, on October 4, 2021, Facebook tweeted the following:
“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Its “apps” include its primary social media service, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus.
Even though the problem was resolved by around 6 p.m. the same day, the internet raged with rumors of hacking and high-level secretive actions, especially in light of testimony to be given to Congress by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen.
Haugen shared a trove of internal research and content about the social media company’s knowledge of how its services can be used for dark purposes and evidence that, for example, it knew Instagram is harmful to young girls.
The New York Times reported that it was not likely a hack that stalled Facebook, as indicated by the fact the company’s internal systems, such as badge-secured rooms and property locations, were also not working. And because it would be very unlikely for a hack to impact all of the other apps.
Facebook told USA Today that the issue was a “faulty configuration change when an engineer doing routine maintenance work issued a command ‘which unintentionally took down all the connections in our backbone network, effectively disconnecting Facebook data centers globally.'”
Regardless of what caused the issue (the conspiracy theories are plentiful), people were shook at the six-hour outage. And when your business thrives on social media leads and advertising, there’s every reason to be concerned.
So, if it happens again, what can real estate agents who use Facebook’s many products do to be ready? Here are a few ideas.
1. Understand partner user agreements
Your marketing partner certainly had you agree to a multipage document of terms and conditions. Now’s the time to take another look at it.
You should be no stranger to similar legalese as it relates to agent representation and making offers on homes, but understanding how your open house announcements and boosted blog content gets affected by massive third-party vendor outages isn’t quite as familiar to most agents.
Remember, if you’re having ad campaigns and lead generation plans run on a web service that isn’t functional, you’re losing exposure.
Every situation is likely to be different, and Facebook going down is indeed rare. Nevertheless, if you’re spending money with a vendor leveraging Facebook on your behalf, make sure you know how they’ll handle it.
Don’t forget that your listing clients might want an update on their ad campaign, too. Know what to tell them.
2. Be ready to react
If you’re used to sharing brand content and live videos and other fun news with clients and prospects via Facebook, what’s your backup? It certainly can’t be Instagram.
How about email? Most agents use their email marketing tools, such as OutboundEngine, Constant Contact and MailChimp, to push out generalized updates, market data and rather bland notifications. (Think of ways to change that.) However, mass emails, properly segmented, offer a great solution for quick, brief notifications to large groups of people.
Use a tight, clear subject line so recipients know why you’re contacting them, and share your message at the top as clearly as possible, for example:
Tonight’s Facebook Live event for first-time homebuyers is canceled due to the global outage. Please watch your inbox and my website for a new time and date.
Then, follow up with something fun, light and brand-conscious. And of course, your website should be used as often as possible, ideally as a destination your audience can be pointed to.
3. Own your content
If you took the picture, it’s yours. If you wrote the words, they’re yours. Thus, if you posted it Facebook, it’s all yours, and you should take a few minutes to download it.
“Owning your content” is about always having your own copy of everything you post to the internet. Ownership of online content can get sketchy these days (another reason to know your T&Cs), so always have a way to prove you own what you create.
4. Expand beyond digital
Yes, most of your leads are going to come from online sources, and a lot of your business is going to be handled on web-based software.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for print media and other forms of tangible outreach. Direct mail will never go out of style, nor will strategic print ad campaigns, radio ads or in-person events.
When tied together under a common campaign theme and executed consistently, these traditional efforts can be highly effective methods for attracting new business.
This industry wasn’t built on Zillow leads or dynamic carousel ads. In fact, magazines and the USPS have done a great deal more for real estate, historically speaking, than the even the most prolific Silicon Valley startup.
In summary, embrace everything technology can do for your business, but never think it’s the only way you can do business.
Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe
Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.