For those Instagram-only business owners, Monday’s blackout was a wake-up call


For most of the billions of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram users around the world, Monday’s blackout was annoying.

But for Holly Rockbrune, it was something much more serious. That’s because she and her business partner Jenna Parkes use Instagram, the Facebook-owned social media platform, to run Jolie.tte, an online store selling vintage and antique French items to their customer base of 35,000. subscribers.

Founded in 2019, the company has grown rapidly and Rockbrune says it is on track to achieve roughly $ 250,000 in net sales this year. But that came to a screeching halt when Instagram went down, as Jolie.tte operates exclusively on the platform.

From marketing and sales to customer service, the entire Jolie.tte operation was temporarily shut down around noon Monday.

“Everything is closed”

“When the power went out for Instagram, it all stopped,” Rockbrune, who lives in Toronto, told CBC News in an interview. Mondays are typically a busy day for the store, which releases new items twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, and partners typically spend the day promoting what’s to come.

“We haven’t been able to post any of our teaser photos, which is extremely damaging,” she said. “It’s really our only advertising medium to get people to come to our online store to buy things.”

Worse yet, Jolie.tte uses WhatsApp – also owned by Facebook – to communicate with her marketing agency, and the messaging service was also offline for much of the day.

“When it first happened, I was in a panic because I thought something was wrong with my account, like I had been hacked – our business is ruined.”

When this first happened, I was in a panic because I thought something was wrong with my account, like I had been hacked – our business is ruined.– Holly Rockbrune, co-owner of Jolie.tte

Things got back online late Monday, but for Rockbrune, the experience was revealing.

“If it was longer term, if it was down for several days or a week, we wouldn’t have any means of communication with our customers,” she said.

“It stressed me out. I started to think ‘how do we reach these customers?’ and I don’t really have a good answer for that. “

The owners of Jolie.tte were not the only ones stressed by the outage. Tanya Tessier runs Mararamiro Home + Studio, an online store and photography studio that realized on Monday how much he relied on Instagram and WhatsApp for every part of his business.

Coincidentally, the store had planned to launch its fall pick on Monday and planned to spend the day gifting its latest merchandise to its more than 3,000 subscribers.

But it didn’t go as planned, Tessier told CBC News in an interview. “We’ve been stranded all day.”

“If one day the platform is gone, we’ll kind of have all of our marketing eggs in one basket,” she said. Worse yet, given that WhatsApp was also offline, Tessier was unable to find any new articles as expected. On Monday, the company was to liaise with a purchasing agent in North Africa, where WhatsApp is the most reliable means of communication.

“She was going to select and research products for us, so normally we would work together on WhatsApp video sharing and price negotiations… but we were completely cut off,” Tessier said.

“I don’t know what the immediate solution is, [but] certainly a scary reminder that we should be thinking about a backup plan. “

Analysts say the several-hour Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage on Monday cost the company more than $ 100 million in lost ad revenue – and more to its reputation. (Dado Ruvic / Reuters)

Daniel Tsai, professor of law and technology at the University of Toronto, says the influence of social media giants like Facebook has only increased during the pandemic, as much of daily life has grown. is moved online.

“The pandemic has actually exacerbated the reliance on using Facebook and online sites to sell their products and market themselves to customers,” he said in an interview. “They are truly hostages to a situation created by COVID-19.”

While Instagram has been a great place to sell, this over-reliance comes with a danger.

“Businesses that depend solely on Facebook are going to find themselves extremely vulnerable because they have an 80% duopoly on all advertising,” he said.

“I think it’s a big risk to be married to a single platform, like Facebook when there are so many other opportunities online, like using Shopify and entering Amazon Marketplace or doing others. types of business with mainstream platforms. “

WATCH | Here’s why Facebook went down on Monday:

Cyber ​​security expert Candid Wüest explains what happened to take Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp offline on Monday. 0:39

The blackout didn’t just cost small businesses like Jolie.tte and Mararamiro money. It also cost Facebook a serious coin.

Company shares were already collapsing Monday morning after an explosive was released 60 minutes An interview with a company whistleblower suggested that Facebook knows how complicit it is in spreading misinformation and actively encourages it because it forces people to spend more time on the platform. .

Then, the news of the outage prompted an acceleration in the sale of shares, with the company’s shares falling more than five percent at the close of trading on Monday.

Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi, who covers the company, said in a note to customers on Tuesday that the outage likely cost Facebook between $ 110 million and $ 120 million in lost ad revenue as ads did not load for the failure.

“People and businesses around the world rely on us every day to stay connected,” Facebook said.

“We understand the impact of such outages on people’s lives and our responsibility to keep people informed of disruptions to our services. We apologize to everyone involved and strive to better understand what happened today so that we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient. “

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