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When Facebook Goes Down, How Black Businesses Can Cope with the Next Social Media Blackout

The Facebook and Instagram social media blackouts last month taught many businesses lessons about how tenuous social media promotion can be. Countless Black businesses, for one, rely on social media to promote their establishments.

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

A Visual Objects survey found that 78 percent of small businesses use Facebook. On top of this, 60 percent of millennial small business owners depend on social media to generate revenue. Also, 52 percent of small business owners use Instagram, found a Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey.  

Black businesses often use social media to connect with potential customers. There are more than two million Black-owned businesses in the U.S., many of them small businesses. Just 124,000 are defined as “employer firms,” which means that they have employees in addition to the proprietor(s).

It’s not just small businesses that make use of social media to promote their products. As of 2018, nearly 97 percent of all Fortune 500 enterprises use at least one social media platform “to promote their initiatives and foster positive communication with stakeholders,” Entrepreneur reported.

It’s no wonder why social media attracts businesses: It exposes the companies to a wide audience. There are about 3.78 billion social media users worldwide, according to 2021 data.

In the third quarter of 2021, Facebook had 2.91 billion monthly active users, according to Statista. That makes Facebook the most widely used social media platform. Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users, according to Backlinko.

This heavy dependency on social media can be tenuous, especially when there is a blackout. “When a store is shut down for a particular period, the shopkeeper incurs losses,” Neha Puri, CEO and founder of influencer marketing company Vavo Digital, told Forbes. He added that it’s the same as with “a major social media platform going down. Small businesses lost potential customers.”

Here are alternative ways to market your company online when Facebook goes down.

Black-Owned Social Media Can Help Black Businesses During Facebook Outages

African-American business owners can turn to Black social media outlets as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram. Issac Hayes III launched Fanbase in 2018 to provide a platform for Black creators. Fanbase lets users make money from posts once you subscribe for $3.99 a month. Hayes told Variety about why he created the app to have a platform to help Black users of the platform.

“I’m in the same position that Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat were in — a seed-funded social media platform with the ability to scale — and I’m a Black founder, but I keep in mind the equality of every user: It is an even, level playing field for everybody,” said Hayes.

Black business owners can survive social media blackouts by having alternative ways to reach their customers and having more Black-owned social media outlets to promote their customers.

Email Can Fill in Marketing Gaps

Small businesses should maintain an email database of current clients as well as potential clients. Without one, you leave “your success and the long-term viability of your business to the whims of third-party platforms that are so massive they wouldn’t take notice if you were to remove your business from their platform,” Landon Ray, CEO and founder of business marketing software firm Ontraport, told CMS Wire.

And when platforms like Facebook go down, business owners can email customers to stay in touch with them and to keep them updated.

“My lesson to marketers is to use these platforms opportunistically to build direct relationships with your list, but don’t count on them to sustain your business over the long haul,” Ray said. “Their incentives are not aligned with your own, and as a business owner whose job it is to create a stable foundation to build on, Facebook and Google can’t be it.”

Prepare for Outages Before They Happen

The Internet is vast and there are a variety of other platforms.

“My general rule of thumb is make sure at least 20 percent of your budget is optimizing on other platforms when a major network like Google or Facebook goes down. That way, you’re still generating some revenue. But adjusting based on one network’s downtown, even up to a day, is a bit extreme in my book,” David Herrmann, co-owner and advertising director for Social Outlier, told Martech.

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