For Small Businesses Using Social Media, It’s Best To Have Policies In Place

By Ann Marie van den Hurk
Lexington Herald-Leader.

As social media becomes more and more integrated into everyday business communications, the question of who owns social media arises in a couple of different forms.

The question probably isn’t meant in terms of which department in your business owns social media, but does your business own its own social media accounts, and what about employee social media accounts?

Those are questions you need to know answers to in order to avoid headaches later. There is a lot of confusion regarding who legally owns social media.

None of us, including businesses, own social media accounts. The account is owned by the social media platform such as Facebook. What you own is the content you put on it, but you license it to the platform pretty broadly, said Alicia Dearn, a real estate and business attorney.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2014, 52 percent of online adults use two or more social media sites, up from 42 percent in 2013.

More likely than not, your employees have social media accounts and use them daily. You may have employees who are more social-savvy than others. You may have employees engaging customers on social media on your behalf under their own handles. Or they may have created handles such as “@janedoeyourcompanyname.”

This poses a challenge for businesses, especially as more and more customer interaction is taking place on social media.

Autumn Witt Boyd, a business lawyer, says that the individual employee would typically own the social media account if they set it up before joining the company.

It’s trickier if the employee set it up while employed for a company, especially if the handle is @janedoeyourcompanyname since there are no laws that would cover ownership, she said.

Ownership of social media often comes down to company policies, or whether the employee signed an agreement about who owns any social media accounts.

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