You Don’t Own Your Employee’s Social Media Accounts

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You Don't Own Your Employee's Social Media Accounts

Recently, I’ve noticed more and more that small businesses and groups are “asking” their employees to change their cover or profile photos to the brand of the organization where they work. And, while some managers understand that this is a fine line, others have pressured their teams to help them promote the brand of the group.

You know how that happens, don’t you?

First, a request is giving by the manager of the team that goes something like this: “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we helped promote our business and all of us changed our cover photos to the brand’s image? I just so happen to have some artwork we made up and it would be terrific if each of you went ahead and uploaded it on your social media accounts. It’s a team effort! You don’t have to do it, but… “

And then you have the first person on the team who goes ahead and changes their profile photo or cover, and next thing you hear is the manager making it a distinct point to acknowledge that team member. I’ve even seen some situations where managers have repeatedly asked, always qualifying it by saying it’s not “required,” to see if a team member who hasn’t changed their private social media settings intends to do it. You know, not so subtle pressure.

Here’s my suggestion to you if you’re a leader or manager of a team and would like to have a little esprit de corps for the team.

  • Ask once and once only and provide the artwork, if any team member ever wants to help your group get the word out.
  • Or, you can do what I do and not ask at all. Period.

Candidly, my marketing team has said to me, “Wayne, let’s ask the team to promote one of our social enterprises or companies on social media!”

I’ve never warmed up to the idea, and am not sure I ever will.

I think that we should have a separation between work and personal, as much as we can. I know that some people think that it’s “old school” but the reality is that as a leader I understand that if my team has a personal life and the business world does not encroach into it all of the time, they will be happier, and the productivity will be higher.

There are also some practical and not to mention legal reasons for not asking your team to promote your business or group on social media. It’s particularly true when managers are asking them with the “subtle” pressures that can sometimes happen when they want their team members to support the organization.

  • Employers have a right to ask their employees not to be on their personal social media accounts during work hours. That’s a legitimate request to make of employees (but not contract workers, freelancers or consultants who are not salaried staff).
  • Can you require–even subtly–to have your employees support your organization? The short answer is NO. Don’t do it. Social media accounts are the personal and private property of the owners, in this instance, each of your employees. So, just like you can’t require them to give you the keys to their homes, you can’t ask (read, “expect”) them to promote the business on their accounts.

But, what if you want to make it at least an option for your team to promote your business or group on their social media accounts if they so choose. Yes, you can make social media art and images available to them, let them know it’s a resource for them if they ever would like to use it on their accounts, but that’s it. In some instances, you may even be placing yourself or employee in legal jeopardy because promoting your business on their social media accounts for commercial gain can violate social media terms.

The bottom line in the age of social media is that if you want to build team spirit or have an amazing product launch and you want your team involved, you can provide the resources. But you cannot require or pressure them, or do anything other than allow it to each person to do whatever he or she would like to do, if anything, on their personal social media accounts.

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