This Wall Street Journal article, German Merck to U.S. Merck: Get Out of My Facebook, presents a prime example of why a platform agnostic digital marketing strategy decreases the risks of relying on a single social media network.
Here’s a video from The Wall Street Journal providing a synopsis of the situation:
A B2C Battle for Facebook Real Estate
The article describes how both companies sharing similar names are fighting for the URL: “www.facebook.com/merck”. The case is currently under review by the New York State Supreme Court.
Facebook's Consumer Reach Matters. The court battle demonstrates Facebook’s importance in each company’s digital marketing mix and pharmaceutical marketing consumer reach. Key quotes illustrating this point include:
“Merck KGaA said it entered into an agreement with Facebook for the exclusive use of the Web page in March of last year, but last month the drug maker discovered that it no longer had administrative rights to the page, which was filled with content related to Merck & Co.”
“Because Facebook is an important marketing device, the page is of great value, and its misappropriation is causing harm to Merck," the German company said. The spokesman said he couldn't estimate the actual costs involved in the loss of the Web page.”
Ownership of the Merck Facebook Vanity URL is TBD
Merck & Co. Last Had The Facebook Vanity URL. Here are pictures of both company’s respective Facebook pages on November 26th and November 30th:
November 26th: Merck & Co. Facebook Page:
November 29th: Merck & Co. Facebook Page:
November 26th: Merck KGaA Facebook Page
November 29th: Merck KGaA Facebook Page
Neither Side Currently Has Use of the Vanity URL. According this ZDNet blog post by Emil Protalinksi, Facebook will not allow either party to use the www.facebook.com/merck URL until both companies agree who can use it. This explains the November 29th versions of each company’s Facebook pages.
Platform Agnostic Is the Best Web Marketing Strategy. If you’re a subscriber and regular reader of Adam Singer’s blog, The Future Buzz, you’re probably familiar with Adam’s posts on creating and executing a platform agnostic web strategy.
Content from these Future Buzz posts reinforce this credo relative to this news event:
- Platform Agnostic Is Still The Smartest Web Strategy
- 19 Reasons You Should Blog And Not Just Tweet
- Why You Should Plan to Self-Publish Pretty Much Forever
“You don’t rely on any single network, search engine, ad campaign, email list or other organic (or even paid) asset for attention. Rather, smartly, the mix you rely on for awareness is distributed.”
“Your long-term path for digital success is simple: don’t be lured into banking all your equity in someone else’s platform. Continue to embrace a platform agnostic approach, and thrive.”
From 19 Reasons You Should Blog and Not Just Tweet (for the purposes of this discussion substitute “Twitter” with “Facebook”):
“Remember, you’re essentially contributing to someone else’s network on Twitter – certainly there are returns, but make no mistake they profit from your attention. I know you might not have a problem with that because you gain something too, but it’s good to be conscious of that fact.”
“These are all just tools to share content and ideas, no more, no less. You need a cohesive strategy for all of them to drive conversions in one spot. A blog is the perfect place for that if you want focused attention and to build an interested community. What if any one network you don’t control falls out of favor or changes the rules? At the end of the day, self-hosted blog owners control the vertical and the horizontal, whereas on Twitter or any external network you’re at the whim of someone else.”
“Careful of how much time you devote to Twitter instead of contributing to your own channel. Spend the most time nurturing that – time spent in Twitter comes at the opportunity cost of fresh content to your blog. You can use Twitter and other micro networks to draw subscribers and interest, but the premier value is in working on your own material in a unique space.”
“Self publishing lets you become platform agnostic. You aren’t limited to one single network like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or anything else. Rather, you effortlessly plug into all of them, including reaching unloved but extremely valuable RSS and email users. Not everyone will ever use every single platform, but everyone can share, comment and subscribe to content that is published via a domain you own. In fact, more platforms makes self-publishing more valuable, because independent content can easily be shared anywhere on the web.”
“By having a self-hosted blog or publication you control the design, calls to action and user experience. Change is not up to some external entity (whether for benevolent reasons or otherwise). Rather it is up to you. If you plan to build a community that stands the test of time it is far too valuable to place this ability in the hands of another.”
Are Both Firms Too Dependent On Someone Else’s Platform? Both firms participate in social media. But, neither Merck & Co. nor Merck KGaA maintains a company blog.
Maybe, this presents an opportunity for each company to develop a blog as the central hub for each organization’s web marketing strategy. And, the other social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et. al. take on the role of social media outposts / distribution channels.
Otherwise, what's to prevent any of the social networks from "changing the rules" where Merck & Co. or Merck KGaA currently invest their social media participation ...
Merck & Co. Home Page (November 30th):
Merck KGaA Home Page (November 30th):