Social media can be a potent tool for companies looking to grow their business. But this same tool can cause serious problems for employers who do not carefully oversee their employees’ use of company web pages. While any technologically-savvy employee may be capable of establishing your company on the latest social media site, recent disputes demonstrate that this is not a job for just any employee. When the seemingly-delightful employee running your company’s social media is agitated or laid off, it’s quite easy for the disgruntled employee to use the account against the company or even delete it. Because the law has not kept up with technology, recovering the company page may not be a simple process.
In recent years, courts have begun to grapple with questions of ownership of company social media pages. While some state courts suggest that login information and followers or connections may be company trade secrets, other states disagree. In short, the law is unclear whether corporate social media belongs to the employee or the employer and what steps an employer may take to recover corporate social media. The question is increasingly difficult when an employee uses his/her personal information to create the company’s social media. To protect company social media, your best bet is to ensure that your company has control from the outset. Some tips for maintaining control of your company’s Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and Twitter feed include:
1. No matter what social media platform your company utilizes, ALWAYS be sure that every page has at least TWO ADMIN overseeing them. Alternatively, a company may effectively manage a Twitter account through a third-party application.
2. Include “social media information” as a specific category of “confidential information” in Confidentiality and Non Disclosure Agreements.
3. Create employment policies and handbooks stating that social media account information and contacts obtained while working on behalf of the company are the property of the company. Include that employees must turn over their login information for social media accounts that they maintain on behalf of the employer prior to their departure from the company.
4. Address these issues in exit interviews with employees prior to their departure from employment. Have a departing employee work with the company to provide all account information for the company. We also recommend changing the account information to prevent future issues if the employee leaves unwillingly.
If your company finds itself without control of its social media, some social media sites provide steps to recover a company’s page. For example, if an employee is misusing a corporate Facebook page and has not deleted it, an employer may simply navigate to its business page, and a few simple clicks will provide a guided menu to claim back a corporate page. Unfortunately, other social media sites such as Twitter have refused to help an employer recover an account from an employee. If you are not in possession of either the account email or verified phone number, Twitter will not help you. Thus, given the unclear state of the law on this issue, taking proactive steps to prevent the loss of company social media is the key to protection.
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