It seems like everyone is tweeting these days, including employees and often as a part of their jobs. For employers whose employees are using Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or other social media as a part of their jobs, they may want to examine who owns the accounts.
A mobile phone review website, PhoneDog, is suing a former employee over his Twitter account. While employed at PhoneDog Noah Kravitz created a Twitter account, which he named "@Phonedog_Noah" and from which he tweeted on a variety of professional and personal topics. According to media reports, Kravitz apparently was not hired to do tweeting on behalf of his employer, which did not even know his password. When he left Phonedog for new employment, he took his Twitter account with him when he left the Company and changed the name to “@noahkravitz,” retaining all of his followers. The Company claims that taking the Twitter account, which he previously used as a part of his job at PhoneDog was the equivalent of taking its property and trade secrets. This month, a judge held that the case presents an issue for trial.
Businesses are beginning to see value in the followers and fans of individual employee social media accounts that are used for professional purposes. As this case demonstrates, merely including the company name in the Twitter account name may not be enough to designate the account as company property. With worker mobility being what it is today, this issue is bound to come up frequently in the future, not only with Twitter, but other social media sites such as LinkedIn. It seems that employers are far better off establishing who owns these accounts from the outset through company policies or agreements and drawing clear lines about what is an “official” company social media account and what is an employee’s personal social media account, especially in a world where those lines are increasingly blurred.