Social Media Account Ownership: Company vs Employee - Who Should Own A Social Profile?

Social media followers are valuable to your company. It’s extremely important to establish social media account ownership to protect them like you would other assets.

Posted by Katie Yahnke in on October 4th, 2017

From management’s point of view, it’s the company’s name on the account.
Social media account ownership is a relatively new challenge for companies and their employees. The conflict usually begins with an employee refusing to pass over social media account information upon their resignation, and the company resorting to legal action to regain control of the account.

From management’s point of view, it’s the company’s name on the account. It’s their content, their reputation, and their followers. On the flip side, employees who have built the following will argue that it was their idea or they did all the work or that all those people interacted with them the whole time.

Having a social media following has tremendous benefits. It gets the company’s name out there, it builds and solidifies relationships, and it can provide extra income through paid advertisements. These perks are exactly why ownership of a social media following can be a big deal, and why clarifying ownership beforehand is a good idea with a social media policy.

How does your company’s social media policy stand up against the recommendations in our Social Media Policy Cheat Sheet?

If we’ve learned anything from PhoneDog v. Kravitz, it’s that a Twitter follower now has a market value (and, in the PhoneDog case, the price tag reads $2.50 each). The social and monetary value of social media accounts make them desirable and something worth fighting over.

Be proactive and address account ownership in your company's social media policy.
Don’t write the rules as you go. Be proactive and address account ownership in your company’s social media policy.

How To Determine Who Should Own A Social Media Account – The Company or The Employee

The video below is a clip from Sharlyn Lauby’s 10 Things to Include in Every Social Media Policy webinar. Lauby advises company owners to provide clear guidelines for social media account ownership before they wind up in a custody battle over a social networking account.

A transcribed version of the clip is available below the video.

Sharlyn Lauby:

The PhoneDog situation is a new one.

If you go out there and just Google “PhoneDog and Noah” you can read the background behind this particular case.

But in essence what happened is this is an employee who was hired by the company and encouraged while they were working for the company to go out on Twitter and build a social media presence, which that person did.

And, at the point that they decided to resign, then they took their Twitter followers with them.

This has kind of prompted a very public conversation about, “who do those Twitter followers belong to?”.

Do they belong to the company who encouraged the employee to go out and create a Twitter presence?

Or do they belong to the employee who all of these people have been interacting with the whole time?

I bring this up, not because we have an answer just yet, but I’m bringing it up because it’s one of those situations where you’re going to want to pay attention to that and ask yourself some questions regarding who owns social media accounts if you’re encouraging employees to go out there and build relationships.

You’re also going to want to ask yourself a question about what I call a “naming convention”.

In a naming convention, this is where you want to decide if you want to include the company’s name in, let’s say for example, Twitter accounts.

If your company is Acme-whatever, if I worked for you and I had a Twitter account, do you want me to have my Twitter name as Acme Sharlyn?

That’s a conversation that the company would want to have.

In addition, flip the coin and let’s say for example you want to hire someone for the sole purpose that they have a huge following.

Then you’ll want to decide how you’re going to handle in the future if you hire someone, and they have 200,000 followers, will they approach you and say “my followers are my own”?

You’ll have to address that with a prospective candidate on the front end.

So, it works both ways. Both in terms of if you’re asking people to build up an account but also if you’re hiring people because they bring a social media presence with them.


Katie Yahnke
Katie Yahnke

Marketing Writer

Katie is the marketing writer at i-Sight. She writes on topics that range from fraud, corporate security and workplace investigations to corporate culture, ethics and compliance.

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