Who owns an employee’s followers?

Posted on January 9, 2012


Last month I said – well, promised – that I’d be publishing some posts about the social media policies that many larger companies and public sector departments commonly have these days.

I haven’t got that far yet. That’s partly because I found myself taking a step back and wondering whether I could write that series at all, given how different organisations approach this issue. One of the fundamental starting points is this: Who owns your social media followers?

And I write ‘owns’ in quite a literal, legal sense. Over on my Collective Content website and on the Media Briefing I recently explored this issue further, mainly with regards to journalists working in online media.

This is the answer, I’ve come to realise: for individual media professionals, a single, non-brand-related ID on each social channel makes the most sense in the long-term. As a media owner, that means you might lose a star reporter with 10,000 followers – but you can always go out and hire someone with 15,000.

So the starting point for the Social Media Policy, in nearly all cases, is that each individual owns their online presence. For most professionals that sounds obvious – even including more career-centric channels, meaning LinkedIn, Plaxo and a growing host of others.

But it’s not obvious. It affects those in media (a rare breed in the big scheme of things) but more widely think of anyone who would have had a rolodex a few years back. Think of your average person in sales. All are affected.

The really crazy thing, however, is that those who aren’t a journo or in sales or in other perceived “sensitive” areas might quite often found themselves bound by the same, catch-all policy. That’s especially if it’s owned by an HR department and especially if someone wants to keep it simple.

Unlike in the sister blog post I cut and paste from above, which mentions superstar reporters, among others, that means those who use their personal social media accounts for anything work-related could be in for a shock.

Jimmy in Finance owns his own Facebook account  …doesn’t he?

Posted in: Social media