Who Owns a Social Media Account?

By Melissa Grindel

Your Loan Officer, the one who mastered the art of acquiring leads from social media, has moved on to new a opportunity. You’ve collected their ID badge, the office key, and other work related items. The clients secured while employed by your institution are staying with the company.

But what about the social media tool used to bring them in as clients—Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Who owns the friends and followers? Or even the account itself?

The answer? Well, it depends.

Let’s start with the easy answers. If the institution launched the account and shared the login and password with the employee, the institution owns it and any followers. The only exception to this is possibly LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a company account, not associated with any individual. That account clearly stays with the company. But all other LinkedIn accounts are connected to individuals. Chances are, your departing Loan Officer owns that account and any followers acquired during their tenure.

For other social media platforms, ownership can be less clear. If your LO is using a personal account created before joining your organization and populated with content they created and generated, it is pretty safe to say that the account, and all of the followers or friends, belong to the LO.

Right now, there is no federal law that prevents you from asking potential or even current employees for access to their personal social media accounts. However, 26 states have instituted laws to prevent companies from requesting this information. Unless you suspect clear violations of trade secrets or other confidentiality issues, it is best not to make this request.

If your Loan Officer created a business page on Facebook and you want to remove it, you must report the page. Facebook will verify who is authorized to create and maintain the account. If your marketing team wants to create a page on behalf of the institution, any employee can be assigned permission to create posts on the company page. It is best practice to have multiple employee administrators so if one employee leaves, the other administrator can then remove the terminated employee’s permissions.

Twitter also has a reporting mechanism for rogue accounts. A complaint form must be submitted using a company email address. The request will be researched, and the account will be removed if it is found to be invalid or defunct. However, if your Loan Officer branded themselves in their handle using your company name, you don’t have a clear way to have it removed other than to ask the departing employee to change it.

To eliminate these headaches, it is much better to take preventative measures to ensure that the social media platforms associated with your institution remain within your control. For assured continuous access to content and clients, consider implementing the following procedures:

1. Create social media profiles for your LOs

Be sure to create the social media accounts for your LOs or any other employees who use the platforms for business purposes). The Marketing or the Compliance Team should issue the password to the employee so it is understood that it is not a personal account and the company owns it.

2. Encourage LOs to share work-related posts from their work-related account.

The LO is free (and in fact, encouraged) to cross-post content from the work account to their personal account, but the company is the owner and originator of company messaging, even if the employee creates the content that appears on it.

3. Have clear, written policies in place about social media account ownership.

Clearly state that the handle, the password, and all the followers belong to the institution. Be explicit that content created by the LO on behalf of the institution, also belongs to the institution. Indicate in writing that the company has access to the account at all times.

4. Change the password when the LO leaves the company.

This is another clear sign that the company owns the account. Much like access to email is disabled, so should social media access be.

Followers and friends on social media are valuable. Make sure they don’t leave when your Loan Officer does. Check out our article on Dealing with Defunct Employee Social Media Accounts for more on this topic!