Thought Leadership

Not Losing your Social Media Shirt in 2013

Editor’s note: This is the 6th in a series of 12 guest posts from industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2013. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2013, the series began Jan. 7, 2013, with a compilation post previewing some of the predictions.


Tumblr goes down (again)
Facebook changes everything yet again
Instagram takes after papa bear, Facebook, then backs away…

Not to say I might’ve mentioned this in the past, but well, I did.

The big danger is a bit different now but at least it’s right there in front of us. It’s not the possibility of technology failure (though that certainly still exists) or losing control of your intellectual property (always a risk), the newest intangible “asset” we have to deal with is our and our clients’ social media platform devotees. Whether that’s in the form of Instagram or Twitter followers, Facebook fans / likers, or any other platform – they are the ultimate in immobility.

And, worst of all, unfortunately we have no legitimate claim to them at all as far as the platforms are concerned.

We all saw the threats of brands and individuals to close their accounts following Instagram’s latest attempted policy change. We all heard the ‘horror’ stories of lost brand pages on Facebook if you happened to break one of their rules, most frequently as pertaining to contest rule violations.

Of course, there’s no good way to “export” your people. You could always track every conversation, every like, every comment, keep hyperlinks to profile pages and go all out in your record keeping. Then when D-Day does come you have some way to reach out to them, let them know you’re abandoning (or have been forced out of) a platform and are setting up camp somewhere else – Flickr, the new MySpace, Google+, etc. and hope they follow, all the while keeping your fingers crossed that this platform ‘lasts.’

Exactly how stable does that make your social media plan’s ROI? The one you and your team suggested to a client?

Or you plan for it all along and make sure “your people” stay on your playground, so that no one else can take the bat and the ball and go home. Or at least if they do that you’ve got a backup set.

For B2B brands, or others in highly regulated industries, you’re probably halfway there. Given the nature of those industries any engagement with customers would normally have to happen offline for privacy reasons. Further, the digital presences of those brands are dealing with issues very different than “normal” customer service needs.

So then, how does a brand go about doubling down on social media platforms – keeping a proper, active social media presence on the platform of choice, while at the same time moving their devotees to truly ‘owned’ presences – blogs, sites and microsites, mailing lists, forums, etc.? Or at the very least to secondary platforms of the same media format?  Where the brand makes the rules but doesn’t poach its own following on those platforms?

We’ve seen what may be the best method in the freemium model of software development – where a developer offers core parts of their service for free, but charges for the premium add-ons. For us, though, instead of taking payment we bring our followers further into our fold. Find out what appeals to your followers, based on the platform (you are customizing content per platform, right?) and offer them more.

For example, if you’re big on Instagram or YouTube, offer additional images or videos in a membership area on your site or a once-monthly mailing of the most popular and/or most commented posts.

As far as publicizing this additional feature – that’s perhaps simplest of all for a brand that’s properly engaging – just tell them:

  • teaser text with a URL on the occasional image (or in the description, or in title screens on a video, see image for a sample),
  • let your most engaged fans know when responding to comments, and of course,
  • prompt them to share the goodies they find with their own people.

You’ve sowed and cared for the growth on these digital fields, make sure it’s worth it and you don’t lose your investment when the winds change.

Nathan Burgess is an Account Supervisor at Bliss Integrated Communication in New York City, overseeing and providing counsel to clients on digital and social media strategy.

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Nathan Burgess

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