I started The Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley six years ago, in May of 2009. Being a solo practitioner has been an exciting journey, and I look forward to what that journey holds for me in the future.
I have met and worked with so many wonderful people over the past six years. I couldn't have done any of this without you. I am truly grateful for all the support you have shown me through your guidance, referrals, and kind messages. Thank you!
Executing confidentiality agreements ("Agreements") with your employees and independent contractors is a good start, but it may not be enough to protect social media assets such as passwords or membership lists. This is because many Agreements prohibit workers from disclosing proprietary information or trade secrets, but they don’t contain provisions that require them to transfer social media credentials if they leave your company. The social media websites’ terms of service may also complicate matters. For example, if your employee or independent contractor used their personal profile to create your business page, they may technically own the account pursuant to the Terms of Service.
3 Tips for Protecting Your Business Social Media Assets
So what can you do? I recommend the following three tips to protect your business social media accounts and business membership lists:
1. Create the Accounts Yourself
Don’t allow an employee or independent contractor to create your company’s Facebook or LinkedIn business page—create them yourself using your business email address. By creating these accounts yourself and linking them to your business email address, you can ensure ownership of your company's social media pages. Another bonus of creating your own accounts is that you will receive the notifications for your page(s), which will allow you to easily monitor activity and engagement.
2. Give Employees or Independent Contractors Limited Access to the Accounts
Many sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn, allow page administrators to add other admin-level users. Facebook, for example, has multiple levels of administrative users that allow the page creator to determine how much and what type of control a page manager can exert over the page. If you have created a page for your business and have one of your employees or independent contractors helping you maintain the page, add him or her as a page admin instead of giving him or her your credentials, and then grant your employee or independent contractor only as much access as needed to accomplish his or her tasks.
If you need to give your page’s credentials to an employee or independent contractor, make sure that the password is unique to that account. You should be using unique passwords
as much as possible in the first place, but you especially shouldn’t give someone a password that you use for your Twitter account, personal email address, and online banking information.
3. Execute an Agreement that Specifically Mentions Transferring Business-Related Social Media Assets
As I mentioned above, standard Agreements may not be enough to protect your business social media accounts. Even if you were the creator of your company's social media accounts and have given employees and/or independent contractors access separate from your personal administrator account, you may still want to ensure that all of your Agreements include provisions that require departing individuals to turn over membership lists and credentials for any social media accounts related directly to your business.
If you add this language to your Agreements, you need to be clear that you are referring only to the credentials relating to your business. Several states have recently enacted laws limiting employers’ access to their employees’ personal social media accounts. Although Georgia has not yet enacted such a law, you should still be as specific as possible and make it clear to your employees and/or independent contractors that you would only want them to transfer any accounts directly related to your business or created for your business.
Social media has become an indispensable aspect of a business’s marketing strategy, especially for small business owners. New challenges arise, however, as social media’s influence continues to creep into our offline lives and as the lines are blurred between personal and professional accounts. (Facebook, for example, won’t let you create a business page without having a personal Facebook profile—you have to have a personal profile behind the page serving as an administrator.) By creating your own business-related accounts and being clear with your employees and/or independent contractors about your social media policies, you can overcome some of these challenges and, hopefully, prevent a conflict between you and a departing employee.
If you have questions about how to create effective policies to manage your business, contact me
. I can help you draft employee or independent contractor agreements or discuss other legal questions you have about running your business.