Do you really own your social media account? This isn’t a question most authors think about, but as my colleague Angela Render explains below, if you have an assistant posting on your behalf, it’s really important that you have a clear understanding on this issue. Angela is an Internet marketing guru, and she also partners with me to present the Self-Publishing Success Intensive. I’m pleased to welcome her once again to our blog to share her professional insights with our readers.
Recognizing the important role of the Internet in platform-building efforts, many authors have leapt onto the social media bandwagon—unfortunately, many have done so without fully understanding the media or how it works. Authors are falling prey to the same problem I see regularly with my business clients, who delegate this responsibility to virtual assistants or even to interns. In both the authors’ and businesses’ cases, these designees are left to their own devices with no oversight, no expectations, and most importantly in this case, no clear lines of ownership.
While social media sites are changing to accommodate business and corporate structures, many are still based on individuals: a real person with a personal account used for personal things. When an individual builds a social media presence and uses it to promote a company (say, your publishing company, your book, or even just you as a professional writer, all of which are businesses in a sense) and then that individual leaves, who owns the account? In many cases, the company has summarily taken possession of the account or even sued the account holder for possession (see my article Who Owns a Social Networking Account?). This is a nasty business that can cost in many unforeseen ways including lost prestige for the brand.
Recently, a judge ruled that a company that takes control of an employee’s social media account, while not in violation of anti-hacking laws, is liable for unauthorized use of the employee’s name and likeness. In essence, while you would not be considered a hacker for taking over and locking a person out of the social networking account they’ve been running for you, following this precedent you could be successfully accused of impersonation, with the account reverting back to the original owner—even if that owner was working at your behest.
The key to avoiding this whole quagmire is to treat social media like any other marketing venture. Treat the employees, interns, or contractors who create blog posts and other writing on your dime for the benefit of your company as staff writers or work-for-hire positions with content ownership clearly defined. Clearly define expectations and ownership in writing whether they are “ghost posting” under your name or using their own name as an admin for your Facebook Page.
Never assume. You must always:
- Clearly define social media account ownership.
- Clearly define social media expectations and conduct.
- Clearly define intellectual property and creative property ownership.
As technology changes and businesses fumble around for the next big thing, the core essentials of ownership have not changed and will remain a constant for whatever new media appears on the horizon.
Angela Render is the owner of Thunderpaw Web Development and author of Marketing for Writers: A Practical Workbook, Second Edition and Digital Age Marketing for Small Businesses. Find her at AngelaRender.com or Thunderpaw.com.