A recent study by Altimeter Group revealed that global corporations have on average 178 social media accounts. Yes, 178 accounts! That statistic suggests chaos reins within some organisations as social media spreads like wildfire. As it’s just so damn easy to set up a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, blog or Foursquare account (‘in just a few clicks’ it is often claimed), so it is challenging for large organisations to keep track of rogue accounts being opened by enthusiastic and well meaning employees. 

Inevitably these accounts are just abandoned and left to roll round in the tumbleweed where they were discarded after the initial enthusiasm wears off and it is discovered that keeping a social media account requires quite a bit of effort, planning, resourcing and action. Or the marketing campaign the account was opened for runs its course, but the campaign accounts remain in existence even though they are inactive.

So what happens to these accounts? Who cleans up this social media litter? Will it be like space junk? If you are lucky, it will be tracked down by the social media team within the organisation and they will delete or close the account. I have heard of examples of accounts that were set up but the password forgotten, and the email address for password resets is unknown or closed. In those instances it is very difficult to have the account removed if you can’t prove company ownership of the account. Sometimes claiming a breach of trademark or copyright may be an option to pursue (here is the Twitter form for reporting a trademark issue).

Inactive social media accounts reflect badly on your brand. A neglected account which suddenly stops posting or responding with no explanation or reason suggests your company simply doesn’t care.  If you are keeping the account but not actively using it here are a few suggestions:

  • Update the description in the account profile to direct the community to one of your active accounts.
  • Consider locking, protecting or making the account private if you wish to hold it for future use (for example holding the account name to prevent anyone else using it)
  • List your brand’s official social media accounts on your website with links.
Here is an example of what happens when an account is abandoned but not cleaned up!

An example of an abandoned account by one brand

Public facing accounts that represent your brand are different from an email address that was set up and abandoned (you won’t find them in a Google search). Make sure you clean up your social media litter.

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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Good question. The other risk is that if the account hasn’t been used for a long time and didn’t get much use even while it was active, another brand with the same or similar name overseas may approach Twitter to take over the account so that they can use it as their own. Twitter will obviously take a look at whether the original account could still be in use by its owners of course.

    I’ve seen one example of a New Zealand group that had started a Twitter account, gathered a bunch of followers and then chose not to continue the group so offered up the account for sale! It’s so easy to change your background and Twitter username that it would be quite difficult to tell that the account used to be something else entirely and its followers would have no notification of the change. Pretty shocking abuse of trust though.

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