Who "owns" a social media account

The real next wave of social media issues could have to do with who owns a social media account created and used by an employee in the course of conducting a company's business. Yes, Paul, there are documented cases with real company names attached. And in some cases, the disputes have already made it to court. Click here for a good article from The New York Times about a case involving an employee who took his Twitter followers with him when he changed jobs, even though he got those followers using a company Twitter account. I just put a post up on the tech blog with Kansas Employment Law Letter contributor Donald D Berner's take on the subject (Hint: address the issue in your policies).

What do you think? Do any of you post on social media site for your company using an account that you consider personal?

Paul, I'm looking at you specifically. As your Facebook friend, I see you do an excellent job of keeping in touch with old employees and you've used the account to communicate with current employees during an emergency. Do you think you'll hand over the keys to that FB account when you retire/leave your current employer? If not, will you send a message to all your former employee FB friends to "friend" the person who takes your place? You've really built your FB account into a valuable tool for your employer. But I assume you also have plenty of purely-personal contacts on that account, as well. What's your take?



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  • I think if your company name is part of your social media account and you use the account for essentially business purposes you should consider the account the property of the company like you would anything else.

    We had to face this situation recently when a long term employee left to be closer to her mother. We had to figure out how to transfer her Facebook contacts to the new person. What made it easier was that the former employee had two Facebook accounts: one for her personal life and one for her "work persona". We eventually closed the work persona account and asked her contacts to transfer over to the new person.

    To be honest, I have violated a few of Facebook's rules in order to do what I do. I have justified it because I think eventually Facebook will catch up with what I am trying to accomplish and allow business people to have two accounts - recognizing that we need to distinguish personal and business personas.
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