On October 4, 2021, Facebook and Instagram experienced a major outage that lasted for at least five hours, preventing people from connecting with their family, friends, and yes — their customers. And this isn’t the first time these platforms, which many small businesses rely on for marketing, have shut down. The last major outage occurred in 2019 and lasted for 24 hours!

Back then, as a business coach who focuses primarily on marketing, I received dozens of emails, texts, and direct messages – each one full of distress:

“My posts aren’t showing up”
“I scheduled posts to go out today!”
“I can’t access my group”
“I had planned to go LIVE”
“I wanted to announce our new product”

It’s safe to say that small business owners and marketers everywhere panicked a little during the Facebook outage this past March. Were you one of them?

Small business owners use Facebook and Instagram to market their business, build awareness, sell a product or service, and grow a following. Yes, they get likes and comments — but if they are really doing social media marketing the right way  — they’re also turning their social followers into paying customers. I’ve witnessed a biz or two focus 100 percent of their energy on one platform, like Facebook. Marketing professionals would agree this is not a sustainable way to market your business.

So let’s take a look at how you can protect yourself from feeling the effects of the next inevitable Facebook and Instagram outage, and what we can learn from the last one.

Common misunderstandings about social media marketing

1. Your social media pages are your property

We don’t “own” our fans/followers on Facebook. We never have and we never will — even if you paid for them! Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social media platforms ultimately retain control over when and how you can reach your customers — and how much it’ll cost you to reach them.

2. You customers only want to hear from you on social media

Don’t assume that your customers prefer to connect with you only via social media, and think that completely avoid using email marketing to drive traffic to your website. We found that 34 percent of consumers say email is their preferred way to hear from small businesses, compared to just 20 percent who prefer social media. That’s why we always recommend using social media as a way to grow your email list.

3. “Winging It” is an effective marketing strategy

According to Constant Contact’s own research, only 55 percent of small businesses have their own website.

Millions of small businesses all over the world rely solely on social media (it’s basically free — at least to get started) to market and sell to their customers. These are the same small businesses that most likely were panicked during the Facebook and Instagram outage. They lost all connection with their followers and gained a clear perspective of what their biz would be like without social media. Yikes!

This outage shows us why small businesses need email marketing

Small businesses that have a marketing strategy that includes both email marketing and their own website.

This is because they could connect with their customers simply by sending an email campaign, and sharing links to an item or a page on their website to offer sales, promotions, or invite guests to events.

Small businesses that use an email marketing provider (such as Constant Contact) know the value of connecting with their subscribers, customers, and clients outside of social media. They also know the value of building a relationship and sharing stories that allow their audience to get to know them better.

Not only is email marketing a super effective method for getting the proverbial word out on any business, it also offers one of the best returns on investment (ROI) of all forms of marketing, averaging $36 for every $1 spent.

During social media outages, small business owners that use email marketing can still connect with their customers rather than worry about when Facebook and Instagram would come back online.

With each email campaign, you give your customers a gift… an opportunity to talk to you, learn from you, purchase from you, or hire you! Your message is far too important to put all your marketing eggs into one social media basket..

3 ways to make sure your message always reaches your audience

1. Be consistent and plan ahead

Like planning your workouts, plan your marketing. You need to flex that muscle repeatedly before you see results. Market even when you are not selling your “thing.” How do you do this? Share personal stories, allow your followers to get to know you better, and inspire them every chance you get!

2. Understand how social media fits into your larger marketing strategy

Pay attention to where your dream client hangs out and market to them there. Your energy is important and if you are spread too thin trying to be on all the platforms, it will be reflected in the quality of your content. Social media is only a piece of your marketing strategy and when used with your website, email marketing, ads, live events, and other tactics, you will see results.

3. Be intentional and capture email addresses

Gaining an email address (or even a “Like” to a business page) is a gift. When your future customers give you access to their inbox and news feed, it says they like what you’ve got! Socialmedia platforms help take your dream customer on a journey. During that journey you can offer them a gift to join your email list, and continue the journey with email marketing as an opportunity to connect more deeply with them by giving them what they came for.

Be ready for the next social media outage

So the not-so-great news is that one day, another social media outage is coming, and we don’t know when. The good news is that you can prepare for it! As an online Biz Coach, I have guided thousands of small biz owners to connect more deeply with their dream clients using creative content ideas and a balanced marketing strategy that includes email marketing.

So even if you were one of the small business owners panicking during the outage, take this as an opportunity to learn and grow. What can you do today using the tips above to make sure you can connect with customers directly, even if there’s another social media shutdown? Think about it, make a plan, and you’ll be ready for whatever comes next!