In honor of Halloween, I thought it might be fun to look at something that certainly had our social media team scared - the recent loss, albeit brief, of Tumblr and Reddit and how these websites handled the downtime. Both sites had sudden and unexpected problems that took them offline, and bored office employees everywhere fretted over how long they'd have to be without their social media distractions. After all, man cannot live on Facebook and Twitter alone. But the downtime of two of the online world's largest social media presences did show us how to, and how not to, handle an unexpected event that takes your website offline. So if your company's website suddenly up and dies, here are a few tips to keep everyone in the loop.
There was a time when people did not expect that a business would keep them updated whenever something went wrong. That time is long gone, as people who utilize social media typically expect that a business would use these outlets to inform them of problems that directly affect them - a website going down is something that affects them. Reddit notoriously hates using Twitter, and their feed is bare bones on content. Noticeable is a lack of any reference to the downtime experienced due to an outage experienced by Amazon's Cloud infrastructure, which hosts parts of the site. Tumblr, however, was quick on the draw and used their Twitter feed to let everyone know what the problem was, and that they were fixing it. Twitter seems to be one of the first places that people go to for updates on whatever particular situation their following, so it would be a good idea to keep your Twitter feed active, just so everyone knows that you realize that there is a problem and are working to fix it. You can also use Facebook to the same end, especially if you're more active on Facebook than you are on Twitter.
E-mail contributors and guest writers
Chances are if the site is down, then the blog is down. And I can tell you from first hand experience that there is nothing more frightening than being unable to access the article you worked so hard on because, on the day it was supposed to post, something happened and now the blog platform won't load. If you have a blog that uses guest posts (and you should, since guest posting is a great way to gain exposure and network), e-mail all of your recent contributors and let them know exactly what is happening, and when you expect things to go back up. That way they can plan their coverage of the article accordingly, and they know you actually care about their contributions to your blog, rather than just seeing them as some content producing zombie.
Write about what happened
Tumblr did an excellent job covering what went wrong and why their site went down, and everyone who uses the site was happy to hear that they had identified the problem. Recently, Forbes also had an issue where the sharing buttons that let contributors easily plug their content suddenly went down and, in stark contrast to Tumblr's openness, they didn't say a word about it. Our social media manager had to email the editor, who then graciously let us know that it was a sitewide error and they were working on it. The point is that any customer that you engage with online expects some sort of personal relationship with your business - they want to know that you care enough about your customers to tell everyone what went down, and what was done to fix the problem. Being secretive about it will only backfire as people become jaded to whatever vague statement you pump out, and not talking about it might lead to customers approaching your social media presence with a bit more suspicion. So if you have a website that a lot of your customers depend on being able to access, you really should write a blog post that honestly portrays what happened.
Even if your business has nowhere near the amount of traffic that visits Tumblr and Reddit, you still need to make sure the traffic that does visit your site knows what is happening if your site goes down. It can be easy to forget them with your tech team running around trying to fix whatever is broken, but all it takes is a quick tweet, status update, and e-mail to make sure everyone knows what is happening. And your customers will be happy to have a way to contact you that doesn't involve using a Ouija board!