Cleaning Up Abandoned Pages in Social Media Ghost Towns

After less than a decade of activity, the world of social media is littered with ghost towns that have not disappeared but practically nobody goes there anymore. Since they are not in the public eye many pages have been created and then forgotten. Maybe the community manager that started them has changed job, or maybe they were never official projects anyway.

But whatever the reason, there are now many abandoned pages for brands and promotions that are still there, untouched for several years. I was reminded of this thanks to the work of Badreddine Lehalali, one of my social media communication students at the IAE Graduate School of Management, near Aix en Provence (hint to recruiters: there are some seriously smart people here). He was studying the social media of sports drink companies and found two interesting relics: a Bebo page about the Powerade Never Give Up 2009 challenge, and an old Powerade Myspace page from the same era. Just in case they are taken down I have placed screen grabs at the end of this post.

What should people do about pages like this?  How can you avoid this problem recurring? What is your company doing?  I would be very interested yo hear your opinions.

One approach is just to leave them since the problem will eventually go away by itself and in the meantime few people will ever see them. This is perhaps the easiest to do since you don't need to take any action. Another view is that it is better to clean up this mess because it only underlines that you do not yet have the process fully under control. This takes a little more work but since it is usually not a high priority it can be done in the gaps between urgent tasks.

Personally I would be inclined to both clean up the mess and also to put in place a process to make sure that more mess is not created as social media proliferate, creating a worse problem in future. The same process can also help keep under control present day activities. This is still very much work in progress, but here is a strawman list of steps to consider for your company or agency.

1. KEEP A MASTER LIST OF ALL PAGES, PROFILES AND OTHER SPACES together with information about who created them and critical information like passwords. Don't wait till the person who created them has quit to discover that you don't have control. Make sure everyone who creates a page reports essential data to the keeper of this list. You can always try to get control of pages after the password is lost but this takes time.

2. SCHEDULE REMOVAL DATES FOR TIME-RELATED PROMOTIONS. For each page where there is a clearly defined end-of-lifetime schedule the removal action already in your calendar so that it doesn't just get abandoned. Decide if the page is simply to be deleted or replaced with an end-of-promotion page, also with a scheduled deletion date.

3. MONITOR THE UPDATES TO ALL YOUR PROFILES and when you see that one profile has not been updated for a certain number of months plan a review to decide if you plan to keep it or if it should be deleted. Put in place a process for this decision making -- who is to decide, who should be consulted and so on.

4. SEARCH GHOST TOWNS FOR FORGOTTEN, POSSIBLY UNAUTHORIZED PAGES. You know the reality of large companies. No matter how strict the rules you put in place almost any employee can create social media spaces with the company name, logo and so on. In some cases perhaps some pages were ordered by a manager who though they had the right to do it. Whatever the reason, you might not have the password so you would need to go to the site owner to get the pages taken offline. This is much more work than simple deletion, showing the value of doing (1) and (2).

Would you just leave abandoned pages until they pull the plug on the server? Do you take steps to clean up old profile and promotion pages?  And what would you add to the four suggestions listed here?


Powerade profile on Myspace apparently abandoned
since 2009. Retrieved in November 2011

Powerade's Never Give Up 2009" promotion
page on Bebo, retrieved in November 2011.


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