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Does an online presence need to fade into that good night?


105865370With apologies to Dylan Thomas (the man who wrote the poem called Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night)  -- I think one of the realities that our online activities brings about is this qustion -- what happens to all the content and accounts you've created after you die? 

We no longer just go quietly into that good night.

Now before you shake your head at me and wonder what this has to do with marketing and branding…hang in there with me for a minute. 

I'm guessing you've had this same experience.  A small handful of my Facebook friends have passed away.  A few blog authors that I really enjoyed are no longer with us.  Some of my LinkedIn connections have died.  They all were very active online and created a large following on various social media sites.  And we're in the infancy of social media.  Imagine what it will be like in 20 years.

So what happens? (Time Magazine wonders too)

In some cases, their family have taken down their blogs or accounts.  In other cases, their work/pages are still live.  I have one Facebook friend who keeps popping up on my "you haven't talked to X in awhile" in the sidebar.  And you know, the other day I actually clicked on the link and was surprised to see that many of his friends were still posting to his wall.  In some cases, something reminded them of him or it was the anniversary of his death.  But the posts were happy and filled with memories for them. 

Another Facebook friend, a very well known local businessman, was killed in an accident.  For a long time his kids wrote to him almost every day.  Those posts just about broke my heart but I'm guessing were very healing for them.

I know Facebook and Twitter both have options for families that include converting the account to a memorial  page etc.

I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful man who had an amazing advertising career (he actually worked with David Ogilvy) and his blog posts were not only smart but filled with advertising lore.  I loved reading them and would often go back and find an old one that pertained to something I was thinking or writing about.  

When he passed away, his family took down his blog.  I couldn't help but think what a shame that was.  Thanks to Google -- generations of people could have benefited from his experiences and storytelling.

I don't know that there is a right answer in terms of how to handle it.  I'm sure some people think it's morbid to even raise the issue.  And maybe they're right.   Except it is something we're all going to have to deal with, sooner or later.

But what I do know is that most people have probably not discussed this with their family and friends.  Much like the "I want to be cremated or buried" conversation -- part of the 21st century needs to be a conversation about what we want done with our online accounts and content.  And preparation (like sharing passwords) would need to be considered.

At first blush, I'd like to think that my brand and work could live on after I leave this earth.  That my efforts could continue to serve business owners and marketing directors.  Sure, some of it would be dated but much of it is evergreen.  But I've never said that out loud to anyone.  Perhaps the About Drew section could be amended to explain that I'm not around anymore….but my work is part of my legacy.

But I haven't given it enough thought to know for sure.  Would my face popping up on Facebook be a comfort -- a continued shared space -- for my family and friends.  Or would it keep them from saying goodbye?

What do you think?  Should our brands and work live on? 

We go to museums and stand in line to read Ben Franklin's letters or Emily Dickinson's handwritten poems.  Is a blog less of a legacy because it's not handwritten?

We keep pictures of family members and friends who have died.  We tell stories about them and some of us probably talk to them in our private moments.  Is putting a post on a Facebook wall or clicking through the photos section any different?

And how does one choice influence the way their brand is remembered?

I 'd love to hear your perspective on this.  



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Drew, I lean in favor of maintaining the online presence as a memorial spot.

Like you, I've lost a handful of friends whose Facebook pages have been a spot where people leave tributes and reminisce. I occasionally stop by those pages, much the same way I might visit the burial site of a friend or loved one. When my dad (who, at age 87 did not have a FB page) passed away in December, I found it satisfying to post photos of him, along with his obituary on my own profile. It gave my friends the chance to share memories of him, and it now serves as a nice memorial album to look at from time to time.

On the other hand, if you're looking at a professional presence, how do you prevent plagiarism of the blog posts? While I'd like to think that most people would repost with proper attribution, I can't help but wonder how that would play out over the course of time.

Timely topic - definitely something we should discuss with our own families!

:) mb

Funny, I was just thinking about this exact dilemma, Drew.

I've been blogging for a number of years on my own sites and others, and I'd like to think that all that content (or at least some of) will be of value to executive job seekers for years to come.

I'd hate for it to die away because my sites have been forgotten and neglected after I'm gone. And I like the idea that, after I die, my brand and how I developed it could still be evident.

If it's not already being done, I can imagine a niche industry emerging that offers "forever" blogsite maintenance and updating, to keep the sites relevant and still showing up in search results.

Somewhat in preparation, I suppose, several months ago I created a file of all my log-ins and passwords, but I haven't given a copy to anyone.

Hmmmm . . . I think I need to pursue this further.

Drew, I love posting on people's Facebook walls after they're gone. It gives me a connection to them. I am also in favor of leaving all web material right where it is. What's the harm?

Hi Drew

You and your readers might be interested in a service offered by LifeEnsured, which provides an opportunity to explain your wishes for each of your online accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs etc.. You can designate beneficiaries for each account and leave instructions on what you'd like them to do with them. www.lifeensured.com

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