Let’s end the week on a good note: what to do when your site it down for maintenance.

Flickr was down for routine maintenance between 9 pm PT Thursday and 5 am Friday, but rather than rolling over and accepting the loss of interaction and brand engagement, the staff provided alternatives to get users talking.

Hashtag: #WhileFlickrIsDown

Tumblr: http://whileflickrisdown.tumblr.com/

Let’s break these two ideas down separately and discuss why each is brilliant.

The Hashtag:

Simply put, haters gonna hate.

Flickr could send handwritten letters to users apologizing profusely for the inconvenience and people still would have complained to hell and high water.

Why not channel the complaints under one umbrella? Why not pile them into one hashtag where the negativity can mix in with the positive comments? That’s exactly what Flickr did.

Yes, there were plenty of people complaining about the Flickr outage, but the angry tweets were mixed in with other people who planned to use the time to watch Star Trek or go to an art gallery. They were still engaging with the brand in a positive way. Instead of gathering users together to complain and build on the anger, they diffused the situation with a neutral hashtag. Fans could take it either way: complain about the outage or say what they’re doing instead.

The Tumblr Account:

I hardly have to spell this one out. Yahoo is the parent company of both Tumblr and Flickr. While little Jimmy is sick with the flu, play with his brother Tommy instead.

Bringing Flickr users to Tumblr keeps the fan base within the family. People aren’t visiting non-Yahoo products; they’re getting their photo fix on a Flickr-approved site.

Also, the more time Flickr users spend on Tumblr, the more they might consider singing up and creating an account of their own. Or, users who created a Tumblr account and abandoned it might come back and realize what they’re missing.

This concept also worked because Flickr and Tumblr already have a special relationship. Tumblr brings in the highest amount of referral traffic to Flickr. People who find awesome photos on one site click through to the next. Tumblr is worlds above Twitter and Facebook in the respect. The Tumblr account wasn’t a last ditch effort to keep people under the Yahoo pavilion, it was a pairing of two sites that already go well together and have a strong relationship.

The Next Step

Tumblr has a notorious reputation for outages and a fan base that is both nocturnal and temperamental. If and when Tumblr goes out in the same fashion as Flickr, it will have to have an equally catching hashtag and possibly a Flickr account to direct to.

More than likely your website or blog will have to go down at some point for regular maintenance. Even if it’s only down between 4 am and 5 am, it won’t hurt your company to direct users to other options. Join our conversation on Twitter, find us on Google+. A simple CTA is all it takes.