Don’t ask me who owns the Facebook account that the main anchor started 3 years ago because the News Director told him to. The lawyers are still sorting that one out and legal precedent on social media account ownership is only beginning to emerge (see Phonedog vs Kravitz). Having worked in newsrooms as long as I did, what’s much more important to me is keeping the peace and giving managers and talent something to agree on (for once).
Here’s a step by step guide for managers on how to gain access to an employee’s social media account without starting a war:
Step 1. Profile or Page?
Twitter security is pretty cut and dry: either you have the password or you don’t. But with Facebook, a manager’s strategy for requesting access to an Anchor/Reporter’s social media account will depend on how that account is set up. First, determine which of these 3 scenarios you’re working with for each employee:
A: Personal Profile with Subscribers and Friends: Facebook is clear in this case that all rights/ownership of the account belong to the Personal Profile’s namesake owner. Managers can’t request access because Facebook does not support a multiple admin structure for Personal Profiles. As a result, there is very little that a manager can do to assert any ownership or control over someone’s Personal Profile.
B: Two Personal Profiles: If a reporter/anchor has set up two different Personal Profiles (one they use “for work” and one for “personal), then Facebook is also very clear that this is against its Terms and Conditions. A manager should encourage the employee to migrate the “work” Personal Profile into a Fan Page. Here’s how (note that all posts, photos and account info will be lost).
C: Personal Profile and a Fan Page: If the employee set up the Fan Page, chances are they haven’t given management admin access. But managers should obviously check to be sure. Next, check to see if the Fan Page is using station branding. And finally, determine if the station is promoting the Fan Page in any way (linking from the website, allowing mentions on-air). Then, see Step 2.
Step 2: Friend or Foe?
Once you know what you’re working with, it’s time to make a decision. Here are your choices:
A: Call your lawyers. Assert that the company owns the accounts and demand the passwords. Remove the employee’s direct access. And then call your lawyers again.
B: Quid Pro Quo: Agree to promote the Fan Page/Twitter account and allow use of company branding (ie your logo or call letters) ONLY if the Anchor/Reporter gives management access to the Fan Page and Twitter account during the time they are employed by the company and ONLY if the Anchor/Reporter agrees to follow the company’s social media rules on content and brand promotion. When they leave, they get to take the account with them and can feel free to remove managers’ admin access and change the passwords.
Step 3: Get it in writing.
Whatever you decide, make sure you have a clear social media policy or contract that explains the rules and is signed by employees and management.
For managers who would prefer to avoid this debate altogether, it’s best to create a better plan for incoming employees. In most cases if the Anchor/Reporter is coming into your newsroom without a significant presence on social media, then it’s best for a manager to create a Facebook and Twitter account for them from scratch. However, if a new reporter or anchor (or writer) already has a large social media following, then it may make sense for the newsroom to leverage that audience. This will only be a productive partnership if the new employee is willing to follow management rules (content, branding etc) in exchange for the newsroom’s promotion of the account. And again, in all cases…get it in writing!
If you have any questions about social media strategy or you’d like to find out more about how SocialNewsDesk is helping its clients with their social media security, contact me @kimsnd!