The lure of potential growth, scalability, enhanced profitability and market domination fuels the merger and acquisition (M&A) market. Over the last three years the value of global M&A deals has increased year-on-year to reach $3.8bn in 2018 (Statista). And in the UK alone, 9,000 deals took place (Statista). A successful M&A can combine a wealth of collateral, including: people, assets, ways of working, values, branding, technology, IT software, marketing assets and… social media channels.
Once the principles of an M&A have been carefully planned, developing a combined social media strategy might not be a top business priority, but it should be considered. Although social media might have started as a hipster trend, it’s now flourished to become an incredibly important tool in the marketing and business mix. It allows businesses to instantly connect with customers, partners, prospects and employees. We are more digitally savvy and spending more time on social media than ever before (wearesocial). And despite the rumours, we are willing to exchange our data on social media.
Where to start?
There is not a single rule on how to approach combining two social media strategies and infrastructures following an M&A because each business is different. Should the social media accounts remain, merge, rebrand, or completely close all together? Each M&A should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and should align to the wider business direction. But where do you start? Conduct a social media audit to identify which channels you might need to take ownership of and understand the positioning and performance of the channels. You should consider the following:
- What social media channels exist? Who has access? What are the passwords?
- How well established are the channels? What audience are they targeting? How engaged is the audience?
- What is the channel and/or content strategy? Customer service? Brand awareness? Lead gen?
- What third-party digital and social media tools are they using? What’s included in the contract? And when does it expire?
- Do any employees have brand social media accounts, such as the senior management team or sales?
- Do you have a PR and social media policy? Identify if the business owns the rights to the channels or whether they’re owned by the individuals.
Remember your customers
Before making any decisions, think about the short- and long-term outlook, and the customer. Minimise as much disruption as possible for customers and clearly communicate to them what they need to know. Retaining and migrating customers is essential. Don’t be surprised if a competitor runs a paid social media campaign targeting your followers following your M&A going public. This is a common tactic.
Once a new social media strategy has been agreed, consider how it should be communicated internally, to whom and what level of information they need to know and action. Prioritise teams that are directly connected with social media such as customer service, sales and marketing.
Understand the landscape
When considering social media best practice on how to approach M&A, it’s important to understand the limitations of each social media network. This varies considerably from platform to platform. For example, you can easily delete a Twitter channel, but you can’t delete a LinkedIn page. On Instagram you can easily change your name, if it’s not taken, but on Facebook you can’t, you must apply for a name change.
There’s a lot to consider and navigate following an M&A. But remember to keep it simple when it comes to communication, put the customer first, align your efforts with the wider business direction and make sure you know what you can and can’t do on each platform.
Ross Walker, Head of Digital & Social