It’s pretty much common knowledge that brands, retailers, and vendors implement a code freeze and stress test their sites before the holidays in order to handle increased traffic and activity. Facebook, which is expected to account for 18% of all US digital ad spend over the holidays in 2018, must have missed the memo.
Its self-service ad manager went down for a reported seven hours on the Tuesday before the biggest holiday shopping weekend of the year. The next day, Instagram announced that it was testing new profile layouts.
While not immediately apparent that the two incidents are related, it wouldn’t be surprising for a tech company with the former motto “Move Fast and Break Things” to, er, break things right before the holidays.
We don’t yet know if the downtime impacted retail sales or Facebook’s Black Friday revenue, but the changes are ongoing and will reshape profiles for both users and brands. The first redesign changed the colors subtly, adjusting the use of whitespace and the orientation of buttons. The most notable shift was the complete elimination of post count, alongside a de-emphasis of follower/following counts. The Follow button was downsized and given equal footing with the Message, Shop, and Call buttons in a 2×2 grid above space reserved for IGTV and Story highlights.
However, when the same profile was reloaded two days later during the drafting of this post, most of the changes were reversed. As a result, the differences were pared down to a single new “Message” link between the Shop and Call buttons.
One change that has lasted more than 24 hours was made on the shopping page. Previously, clicking on the shop page would load a grid page-like interface populated with product images, names and prices. Now it takes you to a collection of shoppable posts from the profile, providing a more curated look that seems more in line with Instagram’s aesthetic.
My best guess is that the ad manager going down probably impacted media buyers’ stress levels and email inboxes more than actual sales. According to the CEO of Allbirds, a breakout digitally-native sustainable footwear company, very few of its sales are a result of online social advertising. While the CEOs of brands selling on social may have bigger fish to fry or want to downplay their companies’ reliance on social, their marketing teams are addicted to the quick and relatively easy to buy (if expensive) reach of Facebook and Instagram ads, even if the platform’s downtime forced them to work through their own holiday weekends.