When we meet with small business owners for an overall business assessment consultation, one of the first questions we ask is, “who owns your social media accounts?” Many times, the business owner will confidently respond, “I do, of course!” honestly believing it to be true that they or their company “own” Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram pages. Once we describe ownership a bit more explicitly it often becomes evident that because an employee or independent contractor actually set up the accounts, the employee or contractor may actually be the owner of the page. This is true even if the employee is using the social media account for company purposes, as many court cases across the country have concluded that a page’s main administrator is indeed its owner.
The obvious concern is that if the employee or independent contractor is fired or quits, he or she could take the page—including all the content and the page’s fans with them or delete the company account altogether. This is a frightening prospect considering the modern business’ reliance on social media these days and how hard they may work to acquire followers and fans who can then be nurtured and ultimately marketed to easily and cheaply. For many companies, their social media pages are actually considered a financial asset of their company such that losing access to such platforms could impact the company financially and tank any prospects for selling or licensing the brand in the future if buyers and exposure are lost for good.
3 Steps to Take Back Control of Your Social Media Accounts
The good news is that there are steps that you, the small business owner, can take to secure ownership of your social media accounts, while ensuring that access to your pages won’t walk out the door with an ex-employee. Here are a few suggestions:
- Resume the role of main administrator on ALL social media accounts. If an employee is in this role currently, have them transfer over admin powers back to you. From there, you can add the employee back as an editor of your pages in order to manage the account without giving up your ownership privileges.
- If you can’t get your employee or contractor to turn over the account and the page is relatively new or you have not spent a significant amount of time or money working to acquire fans or followers yet, consider setting up brand new pages that you own and control. Cutting your losses and starting over early will save you from significant aggravation and possibly expensive litigation down the road.
- As a rule of thumb, use company accounts for social media marketing rather than letting employees use their personal accounts to market your brand. This will help ensure that your social media presence does not become personality driven, and that your audience will stay focused on your business pages rather than on the pages of an employee or contractor. If they leave, you don’t want your fans and followers going with them.
- ALWAYS include a social media clause in your employee agreements. It should state clearly that the company owns any social media accounts and that passwords and usernames must be turned back over to the company in the event the person accessing the accounts quits, is fired, or is simply asked to turn back over access.
Having a social media presence is really a foundational piece of doing business in today’s social and digital landscape. If you follow these easy tips, you can rest easy knowing that your accounts will stay protected and safe from theft or sabotage.
Of course, if you are having trouble taking back ownership of your social media accounts, or you’d like assistance creating agreements that can be used in your business to protect your digital assets and the work created on your behalf by employees and contractors, we invite you to contact our intellectual property law firm at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.