Who Really Owns the Right to Your Social Media Profiles?
Last year, there was a big legal case against Noah Kravitz, a tech blogger who was sued by his former employer PhoneDog for his Twitter followers. Noah had built up a following at the company using his account, @phonedog_noah, which he turned into @noahkravitz upon leaving. He finally settled the case with the court and was able to maintain his following. It was the first time where an employer was suing an employee based on each individual follower. The topic has been a big one for a while now and it should be part of a new employment contract, where expectations are set and employees are able to hold onto their following regardless if they are laid off or not.
It was the first time where an employer was suing an employee based on each individual follower
In a new study in partnership with American Express, we found that 54 percent of managers and 69 percent of employees say that employees should have the rights to their profiles. As a former social media specialist at EMC, I would have been really angry if they had taken my presence for their own. Even though you could be supporting your company with your profiles, that doesn’t give them the right to take them from you at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, if you’re managing a corporate social media account (i.e. @Porsche or @hubspot), that should remain with the company, not you. The account name is on the social network is what should be taken into account in a legal case. The account name implies ownership.
I would have been really angry if they had taken my presence for their own
As an employee, you should be careful about what you’re posting with your social networks and how you’re identifying yourself. This is especially important if you’re in a social media role where you’re constantly using the tools for branding and communication purposes. Make sure that you separate your personal and professional tweets as much as possible so you can draw the distinction between both. Also, be careful about automating your personal tweets. When I had my role, I would schedule my tweets so that people saw updates from me during the day even though I wasn’t really doing it. This didn’t work well for me because my colleagues thought that all I was doing at work was tweeting.
Make sure that you separate your personal and professional tweets as much as possible
Companies need to create a new employer contract that gives employees the right to their profiles, explains how they should be identified online and has best practices for using the tools. These guidelines will make it easier for employees to manage their online brand and for employers to be able to communicate their expectations properly.
Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the Founder of Millennial Branding and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press).