Daniel Burnick of the Alabama Employment Law Report has an interesting post on a case involving a disputed Twitter account where the employee left his employment, changed his Twitter account name and then kept all the followers he had with his former employer.
In Kravitz v. PhoneDog, Kravitz used @phonedog for his Twitter account while he was employed. He left his employment and changed his account to @noahkravitz. He also took 17,000 followers with him which left his former employer with the task of building an entirely new follower base. PhoneDog had no policies in place regarding who owned the social media account. An extended legal battle occurred but was recently settled.
As Burnick points out, the key is to have policies in place about who owns social media accounts when they are used on behalf of the company. To date, I have yet to see a single employer who has taken the initiative to address the ownership of social media accounts in their employment handbook. It’s an issue that many business owners may overlook. But the time required to rebuild a Twitter or other social media follower base is invaluable. If you’ve worked hard to capture a strong social media following you won’t want to make the same mistake as PhoneDog.
It’s a great idea as you enter the new year to review your handbook policies and procedures to make sure your current with existing laws and trends.
P.S. Also consider the issue if you are buying a business. Do not assume that you will automatically become the owner of a Twitter or other social media account when you buy an existing business. You will want to specifically address the issue in your purchase agreement.