At first glance, this may not seem like a story that has particular implications for social media marketing. But it was reported last week that the creators of The Simpsons were planning to scrub a certain episode from all of their distribution platforms – both physical media and streaming services. The target is a season three story to which Michael Jackson lent his voice, and the crackdown comes in the wake of HBO airing a two-part documentary that has convinced many viewers of longstanding allegations against the King of Pop.

We read this story and it got us thinking about the appeal – and increasingly, the necessity – of trying to sanitize one’s image on social media. The Simpsons is doing something similar, except its creators have the clout and the control over their own property that will allow them to practically erase the real-world evidence of their collaboration with Jackson. It shouldn’t be difficult to imagine the parallels in social media marketing.

For any given user of Facebook or Twitter, the time may come when credible allegations emerge about someone with whom you’ve had meaningful interactions in the past. In that case, it might be worthwhile to direct your social media marketing agency to scour your posting history and preemptively delete anything that would prove to be embarrassing or damaging to your brand in retrospect.

Of course, this isn’t just speculation based on posting history. There is a long and growing list of celebrities and institutions that have suffered public relations crises because of someone digging up controversial or upsetting content from earlier in the life of their social media activity, perhaps even from before social media marketing was a real concern. In some cases, this phenomenon has knock-on effects upon people who are merely associated with those who have come under scrutiny.

Social media marketing almost invariably entails an element of reputation management, and it is incumbent upon a marketing company and its clients to look backwards as well as forwards after they begin their collaboration. Do you have something questionable in your social media posting history? Clean it up before you raise your profile. Have you broken off relations with someone who turned out to not be who you think they are? Make sure the evidence of that relationship isn’t sitting out in plain sight.

It bears mentioning that this strategy is no guarantee that embarrassing posts and associations will not be dug out of the archives anyway. But it makes doing so much more difficult, meaning that someone would probably have to be bearing a specific grudge against you to bring it into the light. Ideally, by focusing on social media marketing after examining your own past, you can avoid any of the public relations crises that might prompt someone to scrutinize every word you’ve ever posted.

But even if something is dragged into the open, your social media marketing agency will be better prepared to address the controversy if they’ve first undertaken a collaborative process for auditing your past activities and identified it as a possible areas of concern.