Make the Most of Situations That Are Out of Your Control: Lessons From the Great Facebook Outage of 2021

Do you hate it when everything seems to be going wrong and you can’t do anything to fix it? We do too! However, sometimes in these situations, you can make the best of them and use them to your advantage.

Let’s take a look at a few companies that thought on their toes and created marketing campaigns that helped them benefit from the recent and widespread Facebook outage.

For everyone who was on vacation and not reading the news on October 4, 2021, let me fill you in quickly. Facebook had a meltdown. From about 11:30 AM to about 6:00 PM Eastern time, Facebook and its subsidiaries, like Instagram and WhatsApp, couldn’t be accessed. This might not seem like a big deal, but many businesses and individuals around the world rely on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp every day.

The outage left lots of small companies scrambling. Those that use Facebook for their main online presence or Instagram to make sales and promote their products needed to do something.

One company I’m a fan of called Brightbox sent this great email campaign making light of the situation.

I like this campaign because they were quick to take a cruddy situation and use it as an opportunity to reach their client base. I don’t know about you, but when the outage happened, I was definitely reading all of my obscure emails to pass the time in lieu of scrolling through my feeds. Brightbox took the opportunity to connect with their fans with a joke or two and promote their new products.

Of course Twitter had to get in on the fun. Their “hello literally everyone” tweet was liked 3.3 million times and retweeted over 780K times.

The best part though? The replies! There were over 100K, but some brands really had some fun with it.

McDonald’s got in on the action.

Adele said “hiya.”

Several beer companies also joined the party, including Sierra Nevada.

Even Instagram and Whatsapp played along.

When the outage was over and everyone went back to their social media of choice, I saw a bunch of quick contests pop up that teased the incident, such as “Which friend was the post you kept checking to see if Facebook was back on? Comment below to win (insert prize here)!”

Here’s an example from Alice Reno, a radio station in Reno, Nevada. The station asked a simple question to engage their followers, and boy did it! The post was one of their most popular, with people saying they did things like going to Lake Tahoe, cleaning their house, and finding out their child’s favorite color.

Now, the Facebook outage isn’t the only time something out of the ordinary has happened. Over the last couple of years, COVID has wreaked havoc on our daily lives. So many businesses had to pivot overnight, and this led to a lot of confusion.

There are endless examples of brands doing their best to retool their marketing after the changes brought about by COVID. However, I think EXTRA Gum did a wonderful job with a hilarious commercial they created at a time when the pandemic seemed to be getting under control.

This commercial makes some people laugh out loud and others watch in disgust. Either way, EXTRA did a great job grabbing people’s attention, and turning around something that was previously out of their customers’ hands into something they can control. In this case, it’s the fact that the pandemic is still happening, but they can make sure they’re giving their loved one a fresh smooch after chewing some gum. This campaign acknowledged the struggles of the pandemic but added a fun twist. This commercial aired five months ago, and I still think it is hilarious!

There are a million more examples out there of how companies handled the recent Facebook outage, or how they have pivoted their marketing and entire business strategies due to the pandemic. The important thing to remember is that it’s possible! After all, when life gives you lemons, you can always make lemonade.

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