Last week, I found myself working on a strategy for MySpace. Yes, MySpace. The newest iteration of the old school social site ended its invitation-only private beta, coinciding with new co-owner Justin Timberlake launching his first single in over five years. The completely reimagined UX has gotten coverage by everyone from Mashable to Forbes.
Just the week prior, I was checking out rave reviews for the new iPhone app for Flickr, launched as part of Yahoo’s latest attempt to return to digital relevance. It was a well-timed launch, coming just before the current front-runner in photo sharing platforms, Instagram, took a major misstep with their latest terms and conditions.
Last fall, former social news powerhouse Digg relaunched from a completely new codebase, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to reclaim the site’s former server-crashing glory.
However, if you’re responsible for providing digital strategy, including social media strategy, can you afford to ignore them? As marketers, how do you weight the opportunities presented by the relaunch or repositioning of companies attempting a comeback? Is it different than determining when to jump on the bandwagon for an entirely new, unproven entity?
As I’m working through these questions myself, here are a few thoughts that have emerged.
1. Remember their resources. It’s fun and fashionable to write off has-beens. The punchlines come so easily for unsexy brands you associate with a younger, less sophisticated version of yourself. But remember that Microsoft took a bath on their Xbox video game platform for years and ended up taking over the lead in the space from Sony, Nintendo, and Sega. Companies that were huge once, unlike fresh new startups, have the resources to weather a few failures on the way to their end goal. And even current darlings have their own embarrassing moments (**cough**Instagram**cough**Facebook**).
2. Remember their relevance. All successful social platforms started out with a small, devoted niche audience. Even if the current crop of contenders don’t return to their former mainstream glory, they may find a stable, sustainable core audience. If that core audience is relevant to your business, they may actually be a more effective channel for certain efforts than they were at their height.
3. The Situation is Always Fluid. Aside from being a good opportunity to work in a Firefly reference, I’d like to remind my fellow marketers that the situation now is in many ways the same situation we were facing five or six years ago. Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Human reaction to those new things is … highly variable. Remember the month when everyone was certain that the next big thing was going to be the “Twitter killer”? Whatever new app could show it was more stable than the notoriously fragile microblogging platform… Plurk, Pownce, Jaiku and probably a dozen others cropped up like kudzu on the Georgia hills. Most, if not all, actually offered a better experience than Twitter. And the public reaction was an overwhelming “Meh.” Then again, Pinterest shot from “What the heck is that girly site full of cake pictures?” to a top-referring (and revenue-driving) social site at what seemed like ludicrous speed.
It can be tempting to either write off a relaunching platform, or try to catch the bandwagon at an earlier, more lucrative stage on the second lap. Only you know your own company’s needs, risk tolerance, and available resources to devote to emerging (or in this case, re-emerging) channels. Yes, you’ll have to take the time to investigate the new versions of these older platforms to determine if there’s a potential good fit. It’s your responsibility to to address all new opportunities as they come up, and use critical thinking to determine if they make sense based on your current business landscape.
Even if those new opportunities are wearing a logo you’ve seen before.