Do You Actually Own Your Remodeling Company’s Social Media Accounts?

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Janet Mobley

For home improvement and remodeling contractors, social media marketing can be a very effective tool. It allows you to add personality behind your brand, show off photos of your beautiful workmanship, and raise awareness about your company. While large corporations and marketing agencies have dedicated teams to run their social media accounts, this just isn’t an option for most businesses. Many small companies, especially home improvement and remodeling contractors, lack the necessary resources to staff a full-time social media person. This often means handing over social media responsibilities to whoever can fit it in their schedule.

For the sake of conversation, let’s say this person, we’ll call her Melissa, has done everything you’ve asked her to do and more. She registered the company social media accounts and built up a large following. She also created engaging content resulting in additional site traffic, brand awareness, and most importantly, leads.

What happens if this person leaves? It’s as simple as having Melissa turn over access to the accounts, right? Unfortunately, unless you have an active social media policy (which we’ll get to later), it may not be as easy as you would think.

What happens when the employee who runs your social media account leaves?

When the employee running your social media accounts leaves unexpectedly, it can cause significant harm to your brand or company. They could continue to post as if they were the company, spreading confusion and misinformation to your customers. If you’re thinking that it’s “only social media” and doesn’t really matter, think again. According to We Are Social, a global social media agency, there are over 3.192 billion active social media accounts. This accounts for roughly 42% of the world’s population. Of those accounts, 80% follow at least one brand. Social media offers the opportunity to put your company in front of the eyes of more people than any other marketing medium. You would never let an unapproved print job or tv commercial air, would you?

Taking it a step further, what happens if your social media accounts have sensitive information? And what if, for example, Melissa took your social media accounts, the following she grew, and began working for another major remodeling contractor? This would undoubtedly affect your home improvement business in a negative manner.

What the courts have to say regarding social media

One of the most famous social media court cases is PhoneDog v. Kravitz. Noah Kravitz, much like our example employee Melissa, created his employer PhoneDog’s Twitter account and built a following of over 17,000. After he left the company, Noah changed the Twitter handle and password and continued to tweet from the account promoting his new employer, a PhoneDog competitor. PhoneDog sued and it was eventually ruled that a social media account and password could constitute a trade secret and that Kravitz actions could constitute misappropriation.

Although the courts ruled in PhoneDog’s favor, getting in a major lawsuit for something that may seem as trivial as a Twitter password shouldn’t be looked at as a win. In fact, the two parties settled out of court and as of today Kravitz still tweets from the same account with thousands of followers. So who really won?

In a similar social media court case, Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivell, the defendant, Ms. Nankivell was responsible for websites, blogs, social media accounts, and login information for a number of clients. Upon her termination from Ardis Health, she refused to give access to the many social media accounts she managed. The courts quickly held that she must turn over all information pertaining to Ardis’ accounts. Unlike PhoneDog in the previous example, Ardis Health required that all employees sign an agreement stating all work created or developed “shall be the sole and exclusive property of [the employer], in whatever stage of development or completion.” The company protected itself, its clients, and its proprietary information by drafting and implementing a policy with clear messaging.

Create a Social Media Policy for your Home Improvement Business

It’s easy for companies, especially smaller to mid-sized contractors, to overlook the need for a social media policy. However, it’s one of the simplest things companies can do to protect themselves. A comprehensive social media policy outlines how an organization and its employees should conduct themselves online. It helps to create consistent brand messaging while also protecting the company from legal trouble and security risks like those mentioned above. In addition to sections on branding guidelines, engagement, and what can and cannot be posted, your policy should include the following topics in a clear and concise manner.

What to include in your policy

A social media policy should state that the company owns all associated accounts, usernames, and passwords. It should also note state the company owns all contact lists, Twitter lists, Facebook audiences, and content posted on social accounts . All social media accounts should be registered with an employee’s company email, not a personal one. If possible, a better option is to use a general email such as for your accounts. It’s also a best practice to track and record all account login information in a safe but accessible location, such as your CRM. Your social media policy should clearly state that no new usernames, online groups, or accounts can be created without permission from upper management. In addition, your policy should specifically state that the employee who manages your social media accounts must transfer rights and authorization upon request or termination.

Although the goal of a social media policy is to ultimately protect your company, a well-written and effective one creates clear expectations for what employees can and cannot do with social accounts. Also, it lets employees know where they stand if and when they leave the company. What the policy shouldn’t do, however, is try to limit an employee’s personal social media accounts. As long as they’re not slandering your business or posting confidential information, what they do on their personal accounts is just that – personal. Overreaching policies can actually put an employer at risk.

What to do once your social media policy is created

Once you have drafted a social media policy you feel hits on all the points above, you should share it with your employees. Not only is it good to be transparent, but you may even gain insight into something you failed to consider before. Circling back to the first paragraph of this article, if you eventually decide to partner with an agency, a consultant, or you already are working with one, it’s critical that they too sign your policy. It would be disastrous for your company to spend thousands of dollars and in the end, have nothing to show for it. Unfortunately, we have seen this happen more than once. Lastly, social media moves fast. You should make it a priority to review and update your policy yearly to make sure that it’s relevant.

If you’re looking for an agency that can be your go-to for all things social media and digital marketing, let’s talk.

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