Who owns the Twitter followers of an account when they were amassed during an employee’s tenure at a company? A case popped up in the news today on SMH (originally published in the New York Times).
The topic at last week’s Product Maven’s focused on social media marketing. Presentations came from Enjel Phoon, a lawyer whose firm recruited on twitter, the developer and entrepreneur behind product marketplace Blue Parcel, and PR consultant Roger Christie.
- Leverage channels that will surprise your audience.
- “Fish where the fish are swimming”. Delve into metrics to find out where.
- Research subject focused forums to find hubs of conversation to generate insights.
- Don’t expect high conversion rates (e.g. traffic to your site) from social platforms. 10% is respectable and realistic.
- Don’t invest in marketing before your product, site, platform etc are ready.
- Listen first to your audience to know how to engage.
- Embrace failure. Look back and reflect. Was it effective? Refine practice.
This was my first Product Mavens meetup and it was such a welcoming event. I’m curious about product management and where it crosses over into UX so I’ll be back for more – the next one promised a session on brainwriting. I’m already curious.
Watching a gripping game of Rugby League between West Tigers and St George I curiously grabbed my phone to check the Twitter stream. Looking for a shortcut to league tweets I checked trending topics–no league unfortunately but there was “tonga” trending because of the first game of the Rugby Union. So I checked it out. Now I have seen spam twitter profiles, been @spammed and have heard of direct mail spam. But had not seen such blatant pr0n spamming of a hashtag. Note #tonga …
it went on …
and on …
and on! With Miley and Obama?!
The first Digital Citizens event tonight was a robust discussion on personal versus private online. The title of the evening was Private Parts: Personality and Disclosure – Finding a Balance in the Digital Space. Surprisingly it was the lawyer on the panel, Adrian Dayton (of Social Media for Lawyers) who was sounding like the ad man encouraging people to establish their personal brand and get it all out there on twitter. Sam North of Ogilvy PR, was reminding people of their contractual obligations to their employers and clients with words of warning to not speak badly about them. But, as ever in the social media space the lines quickly become hard to define.
Focal Attractions are the publishers of Mumbrella, an online magazine for media and marketing news. They revealed in the MX rag yesterday that they plan to put a clause, claiming ownership of tweets, in employees contracts. The reason why is because:
an employee’s work-identified posts fell somewhere between their little black book and the firm’s email database … they should belong to the company … so a worker could not take all the followers they had built up using the firm’s identity to a competitor.
Tim Burrowes, co-owner and editor cited this example:
“With Rove, he has got loads of followers and when he leaves Ten they’ll all go with him”
I’m not sure this is the best example that Burrowes could have used. Rove has his own production company and his content is licensed to Ten.
Any employee who feels that they are under surveillance will soon become uncomfortable. What this policy fails to acknowledge is the enormous benefit an employee can bring to his or her company through a contribution to an online community.
A company has every right to protect their client list and their intellectual property. However, there are too many implications to cut a hard and fast rule of ownership of a tweet:
- What if you created your twitter profile before joining the company?
- What if you already had a significant following before joining the company?
- What if the company hired you, in part for your network of followers?
- What if your tweets, work to increase the profile of the company?
Being protective of company IP is one thing, but owning conversation and commentary is surely another. Could a company lay claim to blog comments? Forum contributions? Facebook status updates?
Focal Attractions is in the business of running social media workshops and seminars for companies. They want to be viewed as leaders in this space, hence the motivation for this PR piece. Paranoid companies would be far better advised to not allow employees to tweet during work time, or to tweet from a company twitter account, attributed to a company email address.
Companies can always set guidelines for twitter use. I can only see a policy of ownership as a way to kill morale. Does your company want employees who just do their job; or, do they prefer ambassadors who demonstrate pride, knowledge and pleasure in their work through their online networks?
Would you want to work for a company that claims ownership of your tweets?