What do you do with your social media accounts when your business is closing or you are rebranding a product or project? Don’t just ghost your customers and partners–sunset your accounts to get a running start on the next project, new business or brand you want to show off.
Sunsetting is a term used frequently in government when something is being phased out, discontinued, or ending at a specific future time. In practice, it is a campaign designed to tell current users that something will be closing and what happens next so that those folks are not left in the dark. We can easily adapt this idea for social media.
In the United States, when you physically move you can sign up with the U.S. Postal Service to forward your mail. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you can post a sign at the door announcing your new location and contact information. When you shut down a website, you can easily direct customers to a new or rebranded business with a permanent (301) redirect, so when they type in your old domain they are automatically redirected to a new web address of your choosing.
It’s not so simple on social media platforms. So what do you do when you want to build on successes and continue momentum from a brand or business? Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do:
Don’t Ghost Your Customers
All good things must come to an end. If you decide to close your business, wrap up a campaign, or rebrand a product or project, what happens to the social media accounts?
The answer may very well be nothing–you could leave the accounts open and visible but inactive. This is certainly the easiest thing to do, and probably the most common way brands handle social media accounts when it’s time to move on. It’s good that these profiles are still there (and thus searchable), but you’re not getting all the value you can out of them. Most importantly, if you are starting a new project or refocusing on an existing one, your customers won’t know how to follow you.
Don’t Delete Your Social Media Accounts When Your Business Closes
You can unpublish and delete all of your accounts, leaving no trace except for screenshots and archives made by third parties. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to do this (more on this later), but if your next act is starting a new business, trying to refocus on an existing brand, or you need to preserve your work for posterity (or your portfolio), there are better ways to sunset your accounts.
If you delete your accounts, you are making it more difficult for current customers to find whatever you are doing next.
Even if you executed a smart strategy where you announced what was happening in advance, communicated with your customers through all available channels, and told them exactly where to find you next, that message disappears when the accounts do.
What happens when a customer who didn’t catch your announcement (due to algorithms, infrequent social media usage, etc) tries to find you? When their search on a platform or Google comes up empty, they’ll just find someone else to buy from or work with. If you don’t leave a clear path for them to follow, can you guarantee they’ll find your new or rebranded business on their own?
Plan a Smart Sunset Strategy
A smart sunset strategy is the best way to close down social media accounts for a business, brand or project that is ending or relaunching under a new banner. The plan starts well in advance with an initial announcement of the coming changes (ideally explaining the how and why, which might need to be done on a blog post and/or press release).
Next, you would plan a series of posts to remind your customers of what’s changing and what will happen next to share over time (like any good social media campaign). Use a variety of messages and media to make sure you are engaging current and potential customers (like any good social media campaign).
How long should this strategy play out? We would recommend a month at minimum, and while that may not always be realistic, that would be the best practice here.
The final step is to choose from these two options:
Option 1: Redirect Users to New Accounts
With this option, you leave your current accounts open, post a final pinned message, and update your bio to tell users exactly where to find you.
A final post might say something like: “OldBrand is now @NewBrand! Learn more about NewBrand at [NewBrand website] #BrandedHashtagForNewBrand”
Pin the final post (if applicable) to maximize visibility. At this point you can leave these accounts dormant, but we would recommend continuing the strategy to capture more of your current and potential client base. Share content from the new accounts, continue to share ICYMI reminders, and explain the reasons behind the change until the data makes it clear you’ve successfully transitioned a majority of your customers to the new accounts.
Option 2: Rebrand the Existing Accounts
Depending on the platform, size of the accounts and other factors, you might simply rebrand and rename the existing account. This would preserve your existing audience because they don’t have to do anything to find you.
You must still explain the change and the reasons behind it before and after the transition as described above. Otherwise you might end up with confused customers wondering why they are following some new brand they haven’t heard of and what happened to the account they were following. That confusion would likely lead to negative comments, reviews and direct messages to deal with.
When Not to Sunset
The idea of a smart sunset strategy only makes sense if you want to be associated with your old brand and have something positive to build off of. If your brand has suffered irreparable damage and any connection with it would be toxic for a new endeavor, then by all means delete those accounts and start over.
Let’s Strategize Together
Ridge Road Media is here to help you develop a smart sunset strategy as you close and transition your business, brand or campaign. Contact us today so we can help build and execute the right plan for you.