Digital Fossils: How On-Line Shelf Life Impacts Renewing Your Brand


There’s something to be said about joining a new social network, launching a new blog or creating any new instance of you or your business on-line. In a sense it’s something of a fresh start – creating a new image, a digital clean slate.

Or is it?

An article in the New York Times last month highlighted the way in which social media technologies and platforms can extend the life and indeed the reach of campaigns. Overall this is a huge boon for marketers and brands. The considerable investment made into messaging, taglines, not to mention all the creative content, can now be utilized more extensively across a wider array of platforms. That’s all well and good, but happens when that extension isn’t a good thing?

A quick Google search on the phrase “bad social media marketing” turns up two media gaffes by major brands Motorola and Domino’s Pizza. In the case of the rapid delivery pizza giant, it’s the now well-known kerfuffle that arose in late 2009 after video of a couple of Domino’s employees doing disgusting things to pizzas they were making circulated the Internet. For Motorola, the link that shows up a hearty fourth in the search results, is a blog post criticizing the company for poor use of social media – and it dates to 2008.

In the Domino’s scenario it’s a case of unplanned consequence from user-generated content rather than a failed campaign. For Motorola it’s a plain and simple case of poor judgment in planning the marketing outreach. In both cases, regardless of how they were handled, the negative visibility lives on.

Though a site may lay fallow or even disappear from immediate view once set in the sediment of the Internet, all links remain somewhere – digital fossils guiding one along the history of a company. As much as you may believe you can renew your presence and start again, these historic elements exist and with a few clicks of a mouse can arise again.

So step carefully … and watch out for the tar pits.

About The Author

What began for me as a career telling other people’s stories has evolved into a journey of helping others tell their stories for themselves. I'm a “classically trained” Journalist whose passion for communications began with my first job ripping wire copy in 1982 and has evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media – from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting and guest booking. I've also curated content for several of the tech industry’s leading conferences. It was after finding myself engaged as an activist for LGBT equal rights that I began to explore the way in which personal stories inform and influence people’s everyday lives and I began using my tech background to teach people to make these connections of personal stories, using new technologies as the medium. Presently I run my own consulting firm in San Francisco, working with companies and individuals helping them navigate the crowded waterways of new technologies with the express purpose of leveraging these rapidly evolving platforms to tell their stories. Through workshops, seminars and strategic consulting services, I walk clients through the story-telling process and towards the kind of deep engagement that comes from truly authentic communication.

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