Imagine this: Your marketing officer (or PR rep, or social media guru), handling your company’s presence and posts on social media becomes upset.  He or she quits on the spot.  This former employee has access to your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. The next day, you find out that they’ve still been busy … using your own social media accounts to insult your company and your brand, and to air their personal grievance.  What do you do? What are your rights? And – perhaps most importantly – what can you do to prevent this from happening again?

Have a Written Social Media Policy

Companies need a policy stating that they (and not their employees) own their social media accounts and content posted thereon.  The policy should include:

  1. a statement that the company owns its social media accounts, pages, and all content posted there;
  2. a requirement that employees keep login and password information confidential and that they agree not to access the pages after leaving the company; and
  3. a statement that any content an employee creates is part of a work-for-hire agreement with the company and belongs to it.

However, it is important to recognize that employees’ individual social media accounts, content, and connections belong to them. Our business lawyers can assist you in crafting a policy that is right for your company.

Be Cautious in Assigning Admin Rights

Never give one person sole administrative access to your pages.  Even if you’ve delegated the creation and management of your social media accounts to a trustworthy employee retain access.

A CEO, COO, partner, or other high-level officers should ideally be the primary administrator with the highest level of access wherever this is possible.  For example, Facebook pages allow several different tiers of administrative access, referred to as “Page Roles.”  Page Roles include “Admin,” which provides the highest level of access and allows the person to assign and remove all the other Roles; “Editor,” which allows access to edit the page’s appearance, make posts, respond to messages, but not to add or delete others from managing the page; and “Moderator,” which allows the person to respond to and send messages, and to delete comments and create ads, but not to edit the page or make original posts as the page.  Below that level, there are Advertisers and Analysts.

Depending on the size of your company, you may want one or more Admins.  These employees however ought to be individuals who warrant the highest level of access.  Editors can do nearly everything Admins can do, and the potential for harm to the company is less if that person leaves and “goes rogue.”   Other social media platforms will have different types of editorial controls.  You should fully investigate these and assigned roles and responsibilities accordingly.

Control Your Passwords

Using the same password for multiple sites is never a good practice, but can be devastating at a company level.  In addition, keep complex, non-obvious passwords to avoid hacking.  When an employee who had access to company social media passwords leaves, change the passwords immediately, not only for individual sites such as Instagram or WhatsApp, but also for any applications you may be using to manage multiple accounts at a time, such as Hootsuite.  Of course, you will also want to revoke a departing employee’s administrative access to each platform before changing the passwords.  If you have not reserved the highest level of administrative access for an executive officer (or if the executive officer is the one leaving), make sure the departing employee transfers access to a current employee in connection with their exit interview and before they leave the building.

Taking these steps will alleviate the risk of having to fight your former employee in litigation.  These measures will also make your case stronger, however, in the event you do have to file a lawsuit.  Causes of action can include breach of contract or misappropriation of trade secrets.  If you do find yourself in this position, our experienced business litigation attorneys can assist you in protecting your rights.

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