The infamous case of @PhoneDog_Noah dragged on for three years, wracking up legal fees all along the way. The skinny? Employee with business-branded Twitter account decides to leave the company, taking along with him "his" Twitter account, with its 23,000 followers. Tug of war ensues. "It belongs to the company." "It belongs to me." Company sues asserting each follower has a value of $2.50. Three years later a settlement with a confidentiality agreement. We know the case is settled, but, we don't know the terms.
How to Avoid Becoming This Year's @PhoneDog_Noah - or @hmvtweets?
Social media accounts used for a business purpose are a business asset. Businesses need to define with their employees who owns or controls what and to what extent. Forget to limit how and when an employee may use a business-branded Twitter account and you just may find your company's next difficult move live-tweeted, as the entertainment company HMV found out when one of its employees rather hilariously live tweeted company layoffs. Avoiding litigation or embarrassment from one's business social media accounts requires defining who controls them, when and to what extent.
Some Simple Social Media Governance Suggestions:
- Define ownership. If your company's intention is to retain control over a specific social media account: say so. Say so NOW!
- Put It In Writing. Forget the "he said, she said". Get your employees - or partners - to sign an agreement that in consideration of being permitted to use any given branded social media account, he or she acknowledges that such an account(s) is/are the sole property of the business and remains under the business' ownership and control regardless of what may happen to the employee.
- Include Safety Brakes. Include a provision in your social media accounts agreements that should an employee who has access or management privileges to a business social media account is any way suspended or terminated or leaves the company's employment, he or she must immediately cease any communication or management of the company's social media accounts and that he or she may not change the account(s) passwords and that he or she will assist the company, even in such instances, in resuming control of the social media accounts.
Bonus Social Media Governance Tip
- Change Your Account Passwords Anytime an Employee Who had Access Leaves! Simple enough. So see that it's done! It's a simple step too many enterprises, big and small, ignore.
* Nothing contained in this post should be considered legal advice. If you have a legal question, please contact an attorney from your jurisdiction.