Social Media Rebranding – What’s Possible post Merger or Acquisition
Why is Social Media Rebranding for Businesses Made so Difficult?
Over the years a number of our clients have been through mergers and acquisitions, either as the acquirer or the acquired. As the ripples die down and you’re left with multiple, duplicate social media accounts with differing brands the question then becomes, what do I do with them all? It’s a situation we’ve become familiar with and on a number of occasions have been asked to develop and deliver both a strategy and implementation plan for their social media rebranding to “migrate” to the best possible outcome for their social media going forward.
The thing is this though, what make sense from your perspective as a business, may not actually be possible when you look at its implementation. This isn’t an exhaustive guide, and the main B2B players i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have a habit of regularly changing the rules, but is based on our own first hand experience and it might at least get you thinking about what might, and might not, be possible in your situation.
Nb. Much of this information also holds true if you just want to do a straight rebrand of your business and associated accounts. Be prepared – you may need to start again from scratch on some social media platforms!
Duplicate Twitter Accounts – the Options.
Post acquisition you could well find yourself with duplicate “corporate” twitter accounts. Since there’s no way in twitter to merge two accounts (i.e. automatically shift all the followers of one account over to become followers of another), you’ll need to decide what value there might be in running both accounts in parallel, or dropping one for the other. The place to start is to understand your followers and get a quick “read” to understand to what extent they overlap. A useful and free tool (if combined the two accounts are sub 50,000 followers) to do this is “Followerwonk”. Using their tools you can quickly get a visual representation of the overlap between followers of your accounts and also generate “wordcloud” of topics those followers tweet about.
From this information you then have a few options:
- Ditch the “least developed” account immediately – works if there’s lots of overlap both in your prospects and the followers you have on the accounts. NB. don’t worry too much if the account you are dropping was the acquirer’s main account – the beauty of twitter is that you can rename any account with a new name (as long as it’s available), so you can rebrand relatively quickly and easily. That said, you’ll need to update your twitter handle in all the places you advertise it (e.g. your website, other social media platforms, printed materials etc.)
Can you take account A’s name and rebrand Account B using it? Well, no – at least not immediately. You’d need to close Account A, wait for twitter to release that name back into the pool, then quickly grab that name when it becomes available and use it for Account B. There’s no set time it will take for A’s name to be released, and there’s always the chance that someone will get to it before you get can to grab it.
- Implement a “migration” plan – You can’t force folks to follow a different twitter account but you can at least make them aware that they should. Change the images and profile descriptions, pin a tweet at the top of the account explaining where all the “new” twitter action can be found. You could run promoted tweets targeting the soon to be deprecated account. You could even use one of the services available to gradually (i.e. within twitter rules, so a few hundred messages sent a day) send private message all your followers to tell them about the account’s soon demise. One word of caution – these kinds of services, in my personal opinion, fall within a grey area of twitter’s terms. If you do choose to engage such a service, you do so at your own risk.
- Keep both and refocus – if the follower and prospects bases are distinct enough it make make sense to rebrand the acquired account around a product range and/or customer segment. In this way you can continue to deliver valuable content that is distinct from the main business.
A Quick note on Twitter account “name squatting”
Perhaps only relevant if your merged entity plans to rebrand entirely, but you may be wondering what you can do if you have the legal right to your new company name, but the best twitter handle that reflects it is already in use (or at least registered by someone). Well, twitter’s rules don’t allow you to approach that individual an offer to pay to acquire it (though it’s fair to assume that this does happen on occasion).
The worst case scenario is that the account name is registered, but you can’t reach the owner through tweets or private messages. If the account is effectively dormant and/or you own the trademark then twitter do have a procedure to consider releasing that account and allowing you to take it over. In my experience, it’s not easy or quick, you won’t get to “talk” to anyone at twitter (i.e. no one will be assigned your case and be your point of contact, you won’t be able to speak with them by phone), but once you’ve provided proof of ownership of your trademark they may grant the handle’s release.
In one instance we handled for a client we provided certificates of incorporation in both the US and Europe in the name of the rebranded business, along with a letter from the CEO explaining the scale of the business and proof of global trading, only to be denied the release of the dormant account name. We poured all our efforts into starting a new, less optimally named account, for the dormant account to then be released to us without warning a few weeks later!
LinkedIn – Company, Showcase, Affiliate and Acquired Pages
When it comes to social media rebranding on LinkedIn, this platform presents you with a variety of options in terms of what to do with existing content. In my experience, their customer support folks are also the most accommodating and understanding in helping you restructure and, in some cases, reclassify your page presence with them.
The acquired company will, in all likelihood, have a company page – their “home page” if you like. Underneath this they may have what are called “Showcase pages” for key products or divisions of the business. Since everyone that ever worked there needs to show their affiliation to the “old” company in their job history on their personal pages, you can’t just delete the “old” company page. You’re going to need to make it an Acquired or an Affiliate page.
Affiliate vs. Acquired Page status
This one’s a simple decision(!). If the plan post M&A is that the business will continue ot trade under their existing brand then ask LinkedIn support to make it an Affiliate page to the Acquirer’s company page. That way you can preserve the entire identity, but still provide a route and relationship between the parent and acquired company’s information on LinkedIn. If the acquired company’s brand is to be dropped going forward, ask LinkedIn support to mark it as an “acquired” page. In this way the page will still exist but will be mothballed and anyone visiting it will be directed to the pages of the acquiring company.
Migrating Showcase pages
In my experience, and if it make sense in your case, the nice folks in LinkedIn support will migrate any showcase pages off the acquired company’s account over to be showcase pages under the Acquirer’s company page. This could save you a bunch of time, as well as migrating over any followers those showcase pages may have accrued.
I’ll be honest with you. Facebook is a pain when it comes to social media rebranding. There’s no ability to speak to or reason with anyone, and anything other than the most minor renaming of a page will be bounced by the Facebook brand police. There IS the ability to merge two pages, but the use case is where you’ve set up duplicate pages of virtually the same name in error. There’s no way to merge two pages due to, say, an acquisition. It’s a real issue in my opinion and leaves you with little choice if you want to just drive one Facebook presence other than deleting/ unpublishing the acquired company’s page – losing all those followers that they’ve built up in the process.
As with twitter, the best you can do is to try and persuade people to like/ follower the acquirer’s main page. Spending money (all be it relatively modest amounts) on a campaign targeting followers is an option in your kitbag, along with some good, old fashioned bribery using a “trinkets and trash” giveaway of some sort maybe for new page likes during a promotional period.
You might decide that Your B2B Marketing Strategy doesn’t value Facebook presence enough to go to the trouble. I’ll leave that one up to you.
Why is this all so difficult?
Honestly, in this day an age, you’d think this scenario is so common that all the major social media platforms would have their ducks in a row when it comes to social media rebranding. I fail to believe it’s a hard issue to solve. I’m sure many businesses would part with a significant fee to enable them to do so easily – especially since increasingly social media presence is considered a tangible asset to a business.
In the meantime though, I’d recommend working with someone who has been through this particular minefield more than once, and recently! If you’d like a chat in confidence about your own impending or existing rebranding issues, just get in touch and we’d be happy to help.