Photo Credit: pexels
On the afternoon of February 28, Amazon broke the Internet. When the company’s AWS S3 servers went down on the East Coast, it had immediate implications for any websites dependent on those servers. For several hours, some of the most popular sites on the Internet – including Buffer, Giphy, Medium, Quora and Wix – were not available or painfully slow.
Potential reputational and financial costs
In some cases, this was merely an inconvenience. For example, if you use Buffer to post and schedule social media updates, it meant that any posts going out on the 28th – especially those with big media files – were going to be postponed for a few hours. Even though Amazon’s servers going down didn’t affect Twitter and Facebook directly, it meant that your business wasn’t going to be active on those networks unless you went directly to Twitter or Facebook to post.
However, if you were running a promotion or contest, or were live-tweeting an event, that potentially had reputational implications for your brand. One of the tweets that went viral on the 28th was a brief video of a guy giving a presentation at a corporate event, only to see the ultimate nightmare scenario happen – the Internet broke in the middle of his demo.
And what if you use Wix for your website? Wix ponied up big this year for a Super Bowl commercial featuring Jason Statham and Gal Gadot (aka Wonder Woman), so it’s not going to look good if Wix websites look like they can break so easily. What’s going to happen if all the small businesses and independent contractors who use Wix suddenly had no way of keeping in touch with their customers? That means for those businesses, the Internet going down even for a few hours could have very real financial implications.
The Twitter fix
But all was not lost. Twitter didn’t go down, and for many businesses, this was a lifeline. One of the first places customers go these days to check out the latest news from a company is Twitter. So many companies posted updates on their Twitter accounts, letting customers know what was happening in real-time. In addition, they gave customers a sense of how long the Internet would remain broken. Wix, for example, was updating users on both its main Twitter account (@Wix) and its customer service Twitter account (@WixHelp).
The YouTube fix
Another site that didn’t go down was YouTube. Presumably, YouTube runs on Google’s servers, so there was no risk when Amazon’s servers went down. So some companies used YouTube as a way to deliver content to customers when Amazon broke their main website.
For example, some sites for daily fantasy sports (DFS) players – including DraftKings and Rotogrinders – briefly went offline or could only load pages very slowly. So Rotogrinders, realizing that some DFS players had hundreds or thousands of dollars at stake on that night’s slate of basketball or hockey games, started telling customers to watch broadcasts of their game-by-game breakdowns on YouTube instead of on the main website.
The app fix
DraftKings sent an email out to its daily fantasy sports customers, telling them to use the DraftKings app instead. So, if you were one of the customers facing the potentially epic meltdown scenario of not being able to change your lineups just a few hours before “lineup lock” – you could breathe a lot easier, as long as you had downloaded the app to your smartphone.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to predict when and if your servers are going to be knocked offline. It’s not like there was an epic snowstorm bearing down on the East Coast on the 28th, and that’s why the servers were knocked out. It just happened.
For brands – and especially those that rely on social media – there are some obvious lessons in all this. You need to keep your fans and followers updated with what’s happening, and you need to have a backup plan just in case things don’t work as they should. By showing customers that you have their best interests in mind, you can turn a potentially negative situation into one that reflects positively on your brand.