• Could your employees sabotage your social media campaigns?

    by  • May 6, 2009 • Social Media Marketing • 17 Comments

    Now that social media is the big thing that many companies are trying to roll out, those (often inexperienced) companies often just tell their employees to sign up for Twitter, or make a group at Facebook, and then go to town on it.  But what if that employee defects from the company and takes those Twitter, Stumble, Digg, etc accounts with them when they go?  You have suddenly lost all that work your employees did on company time.

    So if you have employees building up their profiles during company time, have you considered what happens to those profiles when that employee leaves?  What if that employee goes to work for a competitor?  Or starts a competing business?  The last thing you want is to not only have them taking an immense user base with them, but then having to start all over again from scratch at your own company, even though you effectively paid those former employees to create and promote all those accounts while on the clock. 

    And worse, those former employers could completely sabotage your social media efforts by talking a trash about you and your company, or telling all your social media success tactics to the audience made up of those who follow him or her because they were employed by you… and yes, that audience will not just include your clients and customers, but also your competitors too.

    Employee contract
    First, you want to make sure your employee hiring contract clearly states that any social media related accounts that any employee uses for company business remains with the company even if the employee leaves employment.  This is the first safeguard, and prevents any issues coming up later where an employee might try and claim they didn’t know their accounts were owned by the company and not themselves personally.  If it is included and signed by the employee, this position just became a lot harder for an employee to claim.

    Create with company info
    Make sure all accounts are initially created with the company’s email address and include the URL where applicable.  If things go south, it is much easier to go back and try and regain control of accounts if they were originally set up using name@companyname.com rather than employeename@gmail.com, even if said employee switches it later to a personal email address.

    Include the company name in the accounts
    This might seem like a no brainer for some, but it time and again I see companies getting their employees to Twitter without using any kind of name branding.  While obviously this won’t work in all cases, such as Stumble accounts you want to use to also Stumble your own company’s pages too.  But on Twitter, for example, it makes much more sense for your employee Scott to use CompanyNameScott as a Twitter handle than ScottJones.  This will also make it much easier to prove ownership.

    Rules governing personal name use for business
    Yes, some employees will legitimately use their personal social media accounts for the good of the company and many will never run into any problems with it.  But you want to consider the potential impact of those employees gaining too large of a following based on their employment by your company.  What if they get poached by the competition and start tweeting for their followers to start using the competition instead of you.  Or what if you are forced to fire that employee and he or she starts to talk smack about your company with their personal accounts that many of your clients/customers follow?

    So when you need a “human name” like Scott Jones rather than CompanyNameScott, definitely consider using pseudonyms that your company registers and then hands over to employees.  You can even get individual employee’s input into their names, since you don’t want to inadvertently chose a name that is close to the same name as a childhood rival or an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s name.  Of course, also check the name in Google from a reputation standpoint.  But most importantly, using pseudonyms can be invaluable because if the employee who originated the various profiles and accounts leaves the company, you can have someone else slide into the persona and continue on with the marketing efforts without having to rebuild.  And using pseudonyms doesn’t have that potential grey area if employees use their real names.

    As social media becomes more and more popular as a marketing tactic, I am sure there will be many cases where things like ownership of Twitter accounts and Facebook groups will end up in courts, and they are already being fought out in the support of various sites.  So when you start creating your company’s next excursion into social media marketing, consider these points before you make a mistake that could result in you having to rebuild all those profiles from scratch when an employee walks away with all your hard work.

    What have you done to protect yourself and your company?  And yes, I have definitely heard horror stories of when employees go bad!


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    17 Responses to Could your employees sabotage your social media campaigns?

    1. May 6, 2009 at 1:39 pm

      I’m afraid that it’s the nature of man. Time doesn’t stand still and these days, neither do employees. Sensible planning, policies and procedures are what’s required.

      Rgds Vince

    2. May 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

      Jen , all good… except pseudonyms :( I really don’t like those and the reason for that was when some companies started giving their outsourced support agents English names. Isn’t it the point of social media to be honest and transparent? I like for example co-tweets that use ^ and initials after the tweet and the tweet goes from the corp account – I think this is better but everything else sounds… fake.

    3. May 13, 2009 at 5:57 pm

      Just as companies should lay the groundwork to address customer complaints before they happen and address them when they do, so too should they be prepared for the comments of a disgruntled employee in social media. It isn’t a matter of if it will happen, but when. Be prepared.

      Also, companies also need to keep in mind that if they ask their employees to use their existing or personal social media accounts for company business, research, etc, (as so many do) then they have no rights to those accounts and what is done with them later.

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