Scanning through the blogosphere this morning, I saw a reference to “Social Media Will”. My immediate thought was “Social Media Will What? Then I realised that the word “will” was being used as a noun.
It seems that the department of the US government that deals with estate planning is now advising people to make arrangements for handling their social media accounts when their estate is being finalised after they are no longer around. It leads to all sorts of considerations. Is a Facebook account an asset or a liability? I suppose it depends who you are, the article suggested appointing an executor to close the accounts and make the necessary announcements while doing so. It is something every one should think about, not just baby boomers.
How do you tell all your late spouse / friend / colleague / or just legal client’s Facebook friends that there will be no more witty updates, funny pictures or strange videos? A simple ” This Timeline ended on ……..(date here)” statement? Or something incrementally more revealing for the different levels of privacy accorded subscribers, friends and family. Something like the brief one for subscribers, then this for friends “This Timeline unfortunately came to a premature end when ……(insert name here) was taken before his/ her time by……. (insert details here).
For family, the executor (that term always gives me a shudder because it is only 3 letters removed from executioner, the person whose actions could bring about the need for an executor) who might well be the spouse, family member or close friend, could repeat whatever had been used as a more traditional death notice in a newspaper.
Alternatively, in the social media custom of baring one’s soul and displaying unneccesarily intimate details of one’s life (or death in this context), the executor could provide a detailed update, perhaps with photos so that it could be easily pinned to Pinterest. Include all the appropriate sharing buttons and a death could be pinged, stumbled, digg’d and generally syndicated as effectively as a talking cat video.
Sad as it may be to consider, handled well, a death could get more likes, shares and retweets than a life.
What irony for someone who had desperately cultivated social media guru status in life to be upstaged by their own death being more news worthy when handled by a dry legal, executor.
I know that I am letting my imagination run on a loose rein here, I can see all sorts of ramifications and unintended consequences arising from spouses, partners and heirs digging around in some deceased’s social media accounts. It’s not the public stuff that could be the problem, it ‘s the messages and in some cases certain previously unknown friends that could get speculation bubbling.
On a more serious note though, what happens when social media accounts are assets with a value. Perhaps business pages associated with personal Facebook pages could be a saleable asset if and when the business itself is sold after the owners death. Twitter accounts have a value calculated by a number of on-line tools.One of them, TweetValue puts my @zimpeterw at $4956, a long way behind Lady Gaga at $153585!
Successful blogs can have a huge commercial value, Huffington Post sold for many millions. There is no reason why a blog cannot continue under a new publisher, it may already have content provided by other authors or guest bloggers. A blog’s commercial value should be carefully assessed before just deciding to close it down, the domain name itself might be of value to a buyer in the same market niche.
There are three things to consider here:
- Arrangements for closing all the accounts – or just leaving them to become dormant.
- Advising friends, followers, fans and subscribers of the account holder’s death.
- Sale or disposal of accounts that have a commercial or artistic value.
A special Social Media Will might be a step too far for most people, but careful consideration should be given by anyone who is more than a casual social media user. If a blog with a decent following is involved, then it’s treatment might need to be spelled out in a will. Remember it’s not just the financial considerations, but the emotional ones that are important too. Anyone with a few dark secrets lurking in their Facebook archives might want to preserve that secrecy by letting a professional handle the closing of the accounts.
Wishing you success in all your endeavours (and hoping you won’t need the services of a social media executor any time soon)
p.s. My daily balance from promoting Penny Auctions on Zeek Rewards is ticking upwards steadily. I only spend 5 minutes a day on it, check it out, it could be your pension plan.