For about the last 24 hours, reports that Facebook is down have been popping up on Mashable, Twitter, tech blogs, and pretty much anywhere else you look on the web. I’m sure they have dozens of IT guys rushing to fix the problem as we speak.
It seems last week’s social media blackout experiment at Harrisburg University was a little prophetic! But that experiment was confined to one university. Today’s Facebook blackout is no experiment – and it’s global.
So what does that mean for everyone?
At first, I was a little disappointed because I couldn’t get into Facebook itself. Then, more and more things started popping up outside of Facebook that I couldn’t do anymore. I started to realize that Facebook was a big part of how I participate in the world.
I asked myself why one website would have such a big impact on my day and I came up with two answers.
1) Social media is a big part of how people interact with each other in the modern world. This goes for businesses and nonprofits, too. Facebook is part of how people connect.
2) Even though social media is important, it’s also critical that you diversify your brand identity and marketing.
The Network – why social media is important
The social media is all about building connections between ideas. We share content and stories with our friends. We link our Facebook account to Twitter and LinkedIn. We blog about ideas and link to other blogs and articles. It’s all a big web (hence, the World Wide Web). So, when one of the pieces breaks, all of the connections surrounding it lose a little of their strength.
A broken Facebook isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean it’s harder for me to share information with my network. When your mission is to be a source of interesting stories and nonprofit tips, that’s a big problem.
Even this blog post will be affected, because I always announce new updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to generate traffic. I’ll have to remind myself to update Facebook when it’s working again. But who knows how much traffic I’ll lose because of the blackout?
On a more personal and slightly petty note, I also can’t log in to my Goodreads account, because I forgot my password a long time ago and started relying on the “Facebook Connect” button to get access. That’s my own fault, but it shows how Facebook has integrated itself all over the internet through “Like” and “Connect” and “Share” buttons. You don’t realize you rely on them until they’re gone.
When Harrisburg University conducted their social media blackout experiment, they got mixed reviews.
On UWire.com, Danielle Huppke wrote that we should all try to live without social media for a day “in order to find the real pleasure in living.”
Alex Priest, in a guest post for eBranding.me, argues that blacking out social media is taking a step backwards. Instead, he challenged the university to encourage innovation and forward-thinking by using only social media.
I tend to agree with both. Yes, it’s easy to get lost in front of the computer and forget to go outside and interact the old fashioned way. On the other hand, social media is a powerful tool to connect with others in a way that was never possible before. But we shouldn’t be forcing ourselves into one mold or the other, either backwards or forwards.
The key is balance.
Diversify – and come out with a stronger brand
Even though it’s causing a lot of problems, this temporary outage does have at least one good point: it shows how important it is to diversify your online strategies.
Diverse strategies have been important to business since long before social media, and it still applies now. As the old saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket.”
If your business or nonprofit thinks they can get by on just Facebook or just Twitter or just email, you’re missing something. They’re all important to the puzzle, and they all supply something different. I even think traditional mail marketing has an important place in any marketing campaign.
To be really successful – and to be ready when one network or another crashes like today – you should make a point of having multiple links to your followers. Don’t rely on just one way to reach them, even if it is the best way.
After all, do you really want to have “just” anything? Or do you want to be a rockstar in your field?