Or why you should never base your entire business around any one social network or platform that you don’t control or own.
Social Networks are great.
Thanks to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, we’ve now got unprecedented levels of access into people’s personal and private lives.
As a consequence, whilst they’re busy staying plugged in and connected with the people they know and care about, we get to join them at that treasured level of intimacy, and can use our own posts, and updates, to be a part of that world.
Unfortunately, whilst that’s great in ‘principle’, in practice, that priviledge can be taken away from you at any time, for any reason, and you can be left completely powerless when it happens.
In it’s early days Twitter would disappear at times, because it was being overloaded by too much data.
Even now, if you post updates too frequently, or your tools are not configured properly you can end up in ‘Twitter Jail’ so to speak, and be left without the ability to post an update from an account for an entire hour, or longer, depending on the problem and where it lies.
Facebook is notoriously bad for taking down fan pages, with no reason, or excuse being provided to the page owner, and no reasonable course of action, for the page owner.
This post itself, was inspired by the folks at The Cool Hunter losing their Facebook Fan Page for no reason and not being able to get it back online and active.
As much as we’d like to think all that hard work, and effort will pay off, it’s important to build a ‘direct’ relationship with your fans/community/audience as soon as possible, as you never know when the plug will be pulled, and then all that hard work will be for nothing.
Even with Twitter, in the early days it was possible to be able to go back in time, and search an archive of all of your tweets.
Now, the only way to get all of your twitter data, is to send an official request to Twitter’s UK Legal Department, citing European Law, and the Data Protection Act, when users who have been on twitter for a while, want to get their older tweets. Fortunately, if you haven’t tweeted more than 3,200 times, you should be able to get all your data, with just the Twitter API directly. But I digress.
As a rule of thumb, you should always think of your social media profiles as part of your ‘list building’ strategy, of potential customers, as well as of your existing customers. However, like all good ‘list building’ strategies, try to get a ‘commitment’ or an exchange, as early on in the relationship as possible, so at least you can still connect with those people, even if the platform goes down, or the Fan page gets suspended.
Regular offers through exclusive newsletters, contests, promotions, or special gifts, that can only be downloaded, or viewed after handing over an email address promoted through your social channels, means that you can start collecting email addresses, and add another line of communication with your audience.
This way, even if your social channel of communication disappears, or becomes unavailable, you can always improvise, and come up with an alternative tool/platform.
Most importantly, you won’t lose all that value, and relationship that you’ve built up with a fan, just because you’re no longer in their Facebook stream, or they choose to unfollow you on Twitter.
As a brand, or a business, it’s all about building a lifelong relationship with your customers, but if you can’t find your way back to them, then you’ll have a very hard time keeping those relationships alive.