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Removing Social Media Accounts – What happens when you need to end a presence online?

June 30, 2009

It’s become a fact in this economy that companies are going out of business.  Even those companies that were forward thinking in their marketing have not been able to escape the factors in the economy, and they have had to close down.  A client of ours became such a casualty two months ago.  They had just launched several online platform accounts at the beginning of the year.  All was going very well for them as they built their followers slowly and steadily to amass an engaged audience.  Then we received “the email” alerting us that the client was ceasing all business activities and requested we shut down all of their accounts online.

This would be a first for us.  We’ve worked with over a dozen companies, all with varying degrees of success, but, it has always been success.  It was even successful for this client as well; we had executed the initial strategy well, and were growing our audience to allow us to move into the second phase of the strategy.  Now we had proof though, that even the almighty social media with all of its bells and whistles could not solve all problems a company faced.

So we went and started deactivating accounts and learning to what degree the information could truly be removed or purged from the internet.  The results were interesting to say the least:

The Corporate Website – This was able to be turned off. Searches to the domain name now lead to a placeholder page put up by the hosting company.  Two months later though, the site still shows up in searches.  The links are broken, so I will assume Google, Bing, and other engines will eventually drop the results, it wasn’t gone in two months.  The search engines have archives and cached pages of the website, which are starting to deteriorate as well. Queries made to the search engine companies have come back with inconclusive answers as to how long something can live online.  Some items that are heavily linked to from other sites will last longer than those that had only a few links.

Facebook – the Company’s professional page was shut down, but the owner of the Company kept his personal page up to continue building his personal brand for a new career/job.  Facebook is fairly complete when it comes to deleting material permanently.  Due to the fact that most of the content is kept inside of the Facebook community tags, and unless it was open to search by the outside internet community, it seldom shows up in outside searches.

Twitter – After the corporate Twitter account was shut down, it was determined that the content would not easily go away, in spite of Twitter having the content open for immediate outside search.  The several different search applications associated to Twitter archived Tweets almost immediately and most kept running archives up to eight pages long.  The owner of the company decided to re-brand the Twitter account and continue its use for his personal brand.

A WordPress Blog – The blog was deactivated, but is still found in several searches. The codes that many blogs are created in are very search friendly.  Search sites have copies and cached copies of the blog posts, and many of the posts were reposted on other sites.  Unless those posts are removed by the individuals that reposted them, they will stay online.

Linkedin – The Company profile was removed, but the fact that it is listed by former employees, and as past positions of the owners, the company listings will stay online in Linkedin.

Some of this material can be litigated to be removed, but you’ll want to make sure you are going down the right path with the right legal team for that.  Most bloggers are protected by 1st Amendment rights and you will need to engage an attorney with experience in Constitutional law.  Other sites may require formal legal requests to remove photos, videos and other charts and images.

The bottom line is that yes you can deactivate your accounts and remove some material online, that it will not result in the immediate removal of all of the material from being found online. It may fade over time, like the memory of the company, but for now it is a record of existence that won’t easily go away.  With that in mind, what kind of online legacy is company leaving online?

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2 comments

  1. I wish I could have this problem with Twitter!

    As far as I’ve been able to tell, Twitter only archives tweets for maybe a few weeks–if that. I set up a hashtag that was used by hundreds of people throughout the month of May to promote a campaign for the association I work for. I had a link to that search up on the website, and figured the month of tweets would be forever captured. Wrong. Even as the month went on, I was only able to access part of the search–and now, two months out, I get no results at all.

    Very frustrating for me–but, I suppose, good in a situation like you’re describing.


  2. Interesting post. I have often wondered how that all would work. Thanks for sharing, it was thought provoking.



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