Twitter and the Enterprise: Ownership and Portability Is More Important Than Social Media Policy…

I know – you’re trying to figure out what social media means in your company.  If you’re reading this post within a week of it being published, you’re way ahead of the curve.  If you’re finding this at the end of 2015, welcome to the show, kid!

If you’re reading this in 2015, the long tail of social media finally caught up to you.  “You” –  meaning the HR pro in a manufacturing, services or sales organization – or any other type of organization other than media services that serves up news via personalities that was a direct fit for twitter and other forms of social media back in 2012.

You were in a mundane, predictable business, then something happened – you got burned by a situation with one of your employees on Twitter related to a work situation, and you did a Bing search (it’s 2015 – Google’s doing unmanned cars and Microsoft is a search company) and found this post.

We’ll bold the main point of the post so you can find it quickly.  You need to focus more on ownership and portability of Twitter accounts than you do social media policy.

You’re a bit of a cop as an HR person, so your first instinct is to cram a policy related to social media to make sure everyone knows not to screw up.  I think you should do that and you can have that done by next week.  But the real liability to your organization is still out there.

The real question is this – Who owns the employee’s twitter account when they’re building a twitter following by doing work activities?

A great example of this is sports media company ESPN.  ESPN for all practical purposes has a great social media policy – view it here – but has at least a hundred sports personalities running around with their own Twitter accounts, most of them with tens of thousands of followers.  Who owns those followers?  Since the policy refers to “personal social networking”, it’s pretty clear that the ESPN personality owns those followers, not the company.

Which means they can walk away to Fox Sports with the followers.  Is that in the best interest of ESPN?

Let’s use Holland, the editor at FOT and marketing professional at Kinetix, as an example.  Work with me on this:

1.  Holland’s a sharp young professional engaged with a couple of different social angles of work that give her a lot of exposure to the digital side of the business.

2.  I hope Holland’s with us for a long time.  But she, like everyone else, is a free agent.  She doesn’t have to be.

3.  Holland’s building a network in our business and industry via Twitter and other social networking tools.  She’s meeting people that she couldn’t on her own, which means she’s building a network via the access she has and the work she’s doing.

4.  I’m interested in her growing that authority through the social tools.  I’m also interested in making sure I don’t start from scratch if for any reason Holland chooses to leave in the future.

5.  If I don’t want to start from scratch (should Holland leave a year or two from now), I really need to make a move and mandate that Holland create work Twitter (and other social media tools) accounts and build the network out for me in a way that if she left, we could simply rename the base account to accommodate the new person.

6.  The longer I wait to do that, the more I’m screwed – it’s a bigger employee relations issue every day I wait.

7. The new person would then have access to the network and be able to hit the ground running to a large extent and not have a 6-12 month ramp-up period on all things related to building a social media presence.

If you’re reading this in 2015, it’s highly likely that the situation that brought you here was related to your sales function.  After all, we all use, and that company has spent the last 3 years building out social functionality where social prospecting is a reality for your sales reps.  And they’ve been building that prospect base with their own social accounts.

How’s your CEO and board going to feel about that when they leave to go to a competitor for 30% more money?

As for Holland, I’ve got a call to make.  I’ve either got to have her start from scratch with the new account and try to import as many of those followers over to protect what the company owns, or I have to realize that if she leaves, I’m starting from scratch or hiring someone with a similar network.  Of course, there’s an employee development angle to this as well – am I interested in helping her grow her career and how does that affect what I do?

But I have to make that decision now, not in 2015.  If you’re reading this in 2015, you can ask me what I did in the comments and I’ll tell you how it worked out.

FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.


  1. If the account is in the company name and the employee is posting as part of her work duties, it’s work for hire and belongs to the company. If the account is in the employee’s personal name, then it belongs to her even if she posts for work. It gets a little tricker if the company has her posting for work on her personal account.

    The best way to handle it is to make it clear at the beginning and have both a company and personal account with an agreement that the company keeps the company account and the employee keeps the personal account.

    That said, no one owns the followers. They are free to come and go as they choose. (There’s a Constitutional Amendment (No. 13) that prohibits owning other people.)

  2. Tim Sackett says:

    I love how you manage Holland through blog posts instead of actual real conversations! You can take the dude out of HR, you just can’t take the HR out of the dude… 😉


    • Holland Dombeck McCue
      hdombeck says:

      He texts me too.

      • Patrizia says:

        Making Money Doing What You Love (and find out what a ‘Soul-Full Trader’ is and what a ‘Crayfish in a pot is’.) Are you making money from sntmehiog you love? Find out what a Soul-Full Trader’ is and find out how not to let the other Crayfish pull you back into the pot’ .

  3. Option 3. You give Holland great tools, she grows in popularity but eventually leaves.
    She may even go to your direct competitor. But she always remembers where she got her start and will always have the “warm fuzzies” for FOT. After she leaves, she continues to refer talent, clients and even press to you — extending your social media footprint for you. In fact, she helped bring in her replacement who is also a rising star and who actually came packing with his own social media cred…so you actually didn’t have to start from scratch. And all this happened in 2012.

  4. Kris Dunn
    Kris Dunn says:

    HI Gang –

    You’ll be happy to hear my reactions to your solid guidance….

    Heather – agree, if the account doesn’t have the company name on it, I believe the company will have limited rights to that account, unless there’s some type of agreement/acknowledgement in writing. And like I noted in the post, if you’re going to make a change and build something that could be transferred to the next guy/gal should that person leave, the earlier you do it the better.

    Tim – what HR people do performance management posts publicly via a blog post? I think I’ve missed that transparency in the HR community – and you know as well as I do there’s plenty of conversations – you’ve heard them on the podcast – wait – that’s just like everyone else in HR, right?

    Allison – you’re the best. I did the post, published it without Holland’s knowledge, then dropped her a message (tried to call her directly, Tim…)to let her know that my approach is obviously to pay it forward, help her become as strong as possible for all the reasons you mentioned… No question that’s the upstream, smart thing to do….

    Thanks guys and gals…. KD

  5. Appreciating the persistence you put into your site and detailed information you provide.

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