As you know, I’ve been reviewing and questioning personal branding lately and I have one final question (or in this case, lots of questions) for you all. Quite simply, from a “You 2.0″ perspective, if you work for a company and you build up your Twitter Followers or Facebook friends from the hours of 8am-5pm (or whatever your daily work hours are)…who owns those connections made during those hours? And as you know, you don’t need to use the company network to Twitter or Facebook, so then what?
You might not like what I am about to say here, but I believe that if a company is paying you to connect with people online on their behalf…they own those connections. Even if the accounts are under your name. I mean, they paid you, right? Or is that wrong? Or is it both? What are the ethics?
Role-based Pre-Existing Accounts
Take my Twitter/Facebook accounts, I am Beth Harte on both. If I were to join a company in marketing capacity and continue to increase my connections while they are paying me, I believe those connections are the property of my employer. Or are they?
How do we address this potential issue? Here’s one thought…
Prior to accepting a job, negotiate that all followers/friends (existing or new) will remain your property and that the company has the right to “borrow” your accounts and connections for the period of your employment.
Does that work? Would employers buy into that? Would we need to prove the value of our accounts before they would accept those negotiating terms?
Non-role-based Pre-Existing Accounts
Let’s face it, lots of people have Twitter accounts that may not have to do with their daily jobs and yet they still are on Twitter and Facebook during the day. What happens if your company finds out or if you get a new job where they don’t see any value in your Twitter/Facebook accounts? Do you only participate after working hours as to not potentially violate company guidelines?
What’s the most ethical way to handle this situation? Or is it not an ethical situation, but a basic “follow the employee rules/guidelines” situation.
New Accounts (Role-based or not)
What if you start your Twitter/Facebook accounts under your name while working for your employer without their knowing, building up your followers/friends on the company’s dime? Or, on the flip side what if you start an account for your employer, but under your name (and not something like “Susan_XYZ Company”).
How can you handle these situations? If you’ve done it, how? And has it worked?
Where is it all heading?
Will we get to the point where everyone will have their own accounts and companies will have to negotiate for access to them? Will it take time for companies to accept these types of “personal brands” and in the meantime you’ll have to put yours on hold? Is it just a matter of employers having smart guidelines in place?
Lots of questions here and perhaps ethical situations. What do you think? Are there any other account ownership situations we should be discussing?