No amount of hype generated from a marketing campaign should be causing websites to crash in 2018, argues Rob Greenwood, technical director, Steamhaus.
The hallmark of a successful marketing campaign used to be whether it went ‘viral.’ It was almost a badge of honour to see a website crash because of the increased surge in traffic a campaign generated – as if to say, ‘hey, see, everyone wanted it, there was SO much hype… we broke the internet!’
The reality is that no degree of internet hype should be bringing down websites in 2018. Even if we go along with the idea that a website going down demonstrates the interest generated, it will have been a complete waste of time because that’s where it ends.
Your business will have been rendered incapacitated and unable to capitalise on the opportunity created. They won’t be able to sell anything and there’s a very good chance you’ll have also damaged the brand’s reputation as annoyed customers will be met with a buffering screen or ‘down for maintenance’ notice.
You may assume that the nuts and bolts of keeping a website up and running is beyond your remit and is the responsibility of the technical team. But it’s important to understand that it doesn’t make economic sense to maintain website infrastructure bigger than what’s necessary. If you don’t give the technical team the heads up that a larger than normal traffic load is expected, you can create big problems for them – and for you.
Good communication, however, will ensure the infrastructure is well-managed. This will keep your website operational even during the busiest periods – and ensure the marketing team’s efforts don’t break anything. There are still plenty of high profile examples where this was not the case, however.
Marketing’s magic moment
In 2017, construction supplies company 84 Lumber paid a premium to secure one of the Super Bowl’s highly coveted advertising spots, where it showed a promo video about its positive stance on immigration. The company teased half of the 90-second advert before directing viewers to watch the conclusion of the advert online.
Unfortunately, after more than 300,000 hits on the site, the infrastructure couldn’t handle any more traffic. Visitors were instead met with a ‘this service is unavailable’ message. The company’s agency needed to use paid social advertising to redirect users to YouTube, resulting in more than 6 million requests to download the ad in just over an hour.
If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of 84 Lumber’s advertising agency, the company may well have been left red faced – and very much out of pocket. Given that the average cost of a 30-second commercial at the Super Bowl is $4 million, this would have been a costly mistake.
This is an important lesson, because a brand might just get one chance to capture a customer’s attention and drive them to a website. If the experience is a poor one, they may never return.
The resulting reputational damage can be severe. It could demoralise the marketing team and impact your standing within your organisation – which could make all the difference when you’re trying to gain buy-in for a future project.
So, how can marketers ensure they never end up in that situation?
The first step is to check your organisation has a scalable infrastructure in place. You might expect all sites to be able to scale but some organisations still use work-arounds, like auto-queuing which diverts customers to static websites until traffic levels are reduced.
With a scalable infrastructure, however, you can enjoy the elastic benefits of cloud computing. Crucially, this is a ‘pay for what you use’ model which allows you to scale for up for big campaigns but then go back down again when extra capacity is no longer required.
The second step is to notify relevant people when additional traffic is expected. Although websites can automatically scale in the cloud, they won’t do this if there is a small peak in traffic as there is a cost involved. A company may well choose to ride out a peak in traffic until performance slows to something like 25% of the optimum level.
However, if you are expecting lots of additional traffic, you may not want your website running at a quarter of its optimum speed. So, informing those responsible for setting auto-scaling thresholds will ensure the customer experience isn’t compromised. This will vastly enhance the user experience and increase the propensity for visitors to stay and spend.
Given that websites constantly grow and evolve, it makes sense to make friends with the people making the ongoing adjustments. This will lead to better collaboration which will help to highlight new opportunities with a website to everyone involved. However, if you don’t maintain these lines of communication and, as a result, manage to ‘break the internet,’ you’re guaranteed to sour those relationships.
By Rob Greenwood
Steamhaus’ latest eBook, don’t ever say we ‘broke the internet’ discusses how no website or application should ever go down, and the steps you can take to ensure it never happens to you.