Minnesota Recruiter Jobs
Breaking Through The Job Search Barrier

Who Owns Your LinkedIn And Social Media Profiles?

A reminder before getting started that I am not an attorney, I do not play one online and anything I say here is not legal advice rather the opinions and thoughts of a recruiter and soon to be company owner.

Do you see the storm clouds on the Social Media horizon? HR pros, recruiters and yes marketing, public relations and sales folks should be seeing them for sure.

That storm brewing is over your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other accounts. (links to my profiles)

You own them right?

Not so fast.

If you are using your personal accounts during business hours, doing company business and on company resources (computer and internet) you may be opening yourself up to some issues.

Better stated, your employer may be thinking that they have some claim to your profiles.

While I am specifically thinking about the non competes many recruiters on the search and consulting firm side have to sign we are now seeing policies being put in place for employees of all skill sets.

Examples:

Sales: when a prospect or lead connects with you on LinkedIn do you add them to your CRM?

Recruiters: are you adding Facebook and Twitter followers who maybe or are possible candidates to the applicant tracking system?

Marketing: are you adding contacts met during a networking to your company database or newsletter?

In 2010 there was a lot of buzz in the national legal and HR community about a case here in Minneapolis between two consulting firms and a recruiter(s) about a non compete and use of LinkedIn connections:

TEKsystems, Inc. v. Hammernick (D. Minn. 2010)

While a confidential settlement was the result you can get some idea of the result by clicking

STIPULATION FOR PERMANENT INJUNCTION AND DISMISSAL OF ACTION

As we start our consulting shop I am already thinking about our policies and procedures for our future recruiting and sales teams.

There are four articles I have linked to below written by attorneys who all take a bit of a different angle on if policies should be written and if so how specific.

We are working on a session or webinar on this topic with Teresa Thompson of Fredrikson & Byron for the Minnesota Recruiters group. Teresa spoke at one of our events in 2009 and also was an attorney for the defendants of the case linked above.

As companies many of us are looking for staff who have a following, reputation, book of business and database of names/contacts/companies that can help grow our companies.

What I find ironic is that while we want to recruit those kinds of folks we want to lock that material in when they leave.

Surely a reasonable middle ground can be found.

I also think about companies who will write draconian policies and procedures and wonder if they will be able to attract the staff they need.

What I mean is… if a company wants to hire a recruiter, sales person, online marketer and tells them that any contacts they make must be left behind when they leave, why would they want to work there?

Huh…

I know I did not settle anything with this blog post and it was not my intent. This is something I have been thinking about for a few months and know many of you should too.

Reading material:

LinkedIn: A Violation of Your Employee’s Non-Compete? (Non-Compete and Trade Secrets)

Social Media at Work — Who Owns the Content? (JohnSumser.com)

Who owns an employee's LinkedIn contacts? (Gruntled Employees)

Social networking and trade secret protection (New England In-House)

 

Click for more posts on the topic, for most recent blog posts.

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Comments

Btkennett

Great post Paul. Very interesting that the very thing that makes us attractive to employers during the hiring process makes them nervous when we leave. Having been on both sides of the issue, I "get it" but the reality is the value of connected employees sharing information FAR out weighs the risk in my estimation.

Sue_anne

Social media does raise an interesting question of personal branding / ownership and corporate branding / ownership. One great example, that I'm looking to see how it shakes out is what's happened over the last six months or so over at Comcast. Frank Eliason started the twitter account @ComcastCares and it became a mix of both him personally and the Comcast brand. When he left Comcast to join Citi, he started a new Twitter account under his name and handed ComcastCares to the customer support team -- with all of its followers, tweet history, DMs, "link juice", etc. Fast forward several months and you have another "high profile on Twitter" employee of Comcast leaving the company - Bonnie. Formerly known as @comcastbonnie, she has now left Comcast and taken her Twitter account with her. That's 4,500+ followers, 86,000+ tweets, etc. A significant portion of that she built using Comcast time, but it's now her personal account under @bonniezilla.

I think just those two examples at one company and using one platform (Twitter) open up a lot of areas for discussion.

Josh Braaten

It's only the beginning for these types of legal instances. And they're only going to happen more and more as social media becomes ubiquitous.

Smart employers will opt for the carrot instead of the stick when they hire employees with strong personal brands. Keep these folks happy and watch them use their influence for the good of the company.

The approach comes with its risks but sure beats ridiculous non-compete tactics such as forbidding LinkedIn or Facebook updates. The days of this mentality are few.

Stephen O'Donnell

My take on this, is that employers do indeed need to be more relaxed and mature about this, and only impose restrictions where absolutely necessary.

I explain more in my blog here. http://wp.me/pPAVC-gM

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