Your social-media accounts are extremely valuable company property. Losing a social profile, its followers and the resources invested in growing those networks could be a significant loss to your business. Think of this way: You wouldn’t let a former employee walk out of your office with the TV from your lobby, the refrigerator from the break room or the computer off your desk, so don’t let them sneak away with your digital property either.

Here are five tips for avoiding blurred lines:

  1. Set social-media boundaries and define ownership from the start. This will help both you and your team avoid any confusion or misassumptions. Communicate that the employer is the owner of company social media in all employee documents, including the offer letter, job description and confidentiality/separation agreements.
  2. Have a manger set up any social-media accounts and share the username (which should include the company name) and passwords with individuals who need access to it. Also, make sure that the email address associated with that account is owned and operated by the company, not the employee.
  3. Have a manager assist in determining content and the editorial calendar for social-media platforms.
  4. As your employees continue to think outside the social-media box — this is why you hired them, after all! — keep your social-media policy up to date to prevent any negative repercussions.
  5. If you are using a third-party resource to manage your account, make sure it’s clear that those accounts are your property. (We include a line in every contract ensuring that our clients have the rights to all their accounts.

Determine ownership of social-media accounts. Unclear about whether an employer or employee has ownership of an existing social-media account? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Who set up the account and determined the content?
  • Was the account set up before or during employment?
  • Who has access to the account and passwords?
  • Is the Twitter handle or account name associated with the business?
  • How valuable are fans and followers? (This is a grey area, because fans and followers are always valuable, especially as a means to reach potential customers.)

While some of these questions do not require black-and-white answers, they can point to actions you might want to take now to avoid a sticky situation in the future.

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Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website www.financialsocialmedia.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.