ComMetrics weekly review: Who owns my social network?

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2010/11/15 · 27 comments 9,129 views

in d business regulation,social media diary,white papers research

Social media monitoring DOs and DON’Ts: social media marketing, social media metrics, social media monitoring tools, benchmark test, Twitter monitoring, luxury branding, and other happenings we came across while surfing the internet, blogging and posting on FacebookIdenti.caGoogle Buzz, or Twitter.

Check previous ComMetrics weekly review posts for more tidbits, insight and intel.

In this post, we share some interesting things we learned about who owns your LinkedIn or Xing connections and what about your online bio on Ziggs and why geo-tagging or geo-location services are still struggling to attract mainstream users.

    Who owns your contact list once you leave?

Connecting with a person or group of people you know through work after leaving an employer can result in claims of violating the employer’s trade secrets. But things quickly get convoluted. For instance, who owns an employee’s LinkedIn connections if many of them pre-date the employee joining the firm?

I simply find it impractical to put any claim on an employee’s LinkedIn, Xing or Facebook connections. When the individual leaves our employment they take their contacts with them, benefiting the new employer. By the same token, our company benefits when new employees bring their contacts with them.
Image - Twitter - tweet by @Rebecca Denison - Today is already an amazing day. Got to geek out with @meghoward and @applegirl brought me green tea from Starbucks (client)! Happy Monday! @ComMetrics comments: Is revealing the name of one of your clients disclosing a trade secret? I doubt it, since this client relationship is likely public knowledge already.

I find our company does most things right, so we have little to fear if our secrets get out. There is no magic ingredient to success to be found in a person’s network of contacts.

Of course, if one were to get customer details this way, we could have a problem. On the other hand, we all know who our competitors and their major clients are, so what is the big secret here?

The fuss over social network contacts and information shared with one’s social network or groups (e.g., LinkedIn) suggests that a great prize is awarded for gaining access to such data. Really?

Having a long-term relationship with a client that has purchased and been satisfied with our product and services for years should be worth something. It usually makes it impossible for a competitor to just call them and snatch the contract out from under us.

Finally, regarding our social media guidelines for staff and clients, we note:

    “… their spirit must be observed as well as their letter.”

How using social networks and connecting with a person or a group of individuals could result in a claim that a particular connection of a former staff member in and of itself violated the employer’s trade secrets remains a mystery to me.

What is your opinion? Share please! Surely a social media savvy court would see that this makes no sense… but who knows?

We advise colleagues and team members who leave our company to negotiate clear terms relating to their contact network before signing on the dotted line for a new job, but we are happy to have them take their social network connections with them. Go in peace and stay in touch…

In case you wondered: How can I delete a LinkedIn account? The answer is:

    1. Log into the account you wish to close.
    2. Click on ‘User name’ found at the right hand top of the home page.
    3. Click on ‘Settings’.
    4. Go to section ‘Personal Information’ – click  ‘Close Your Account‘ .
    5. Select a reason for closing your account.
    6. Click on ‘Continue’.

Just to be clear, once an account is closed one has no longer access to any information that was previously stored including one’s contacts.

If you closed the account by mistake, contact Customer Service to have it re-opened.

Resources: Who owns an employee’s LinkedIn account?, Is social networking disclosing your trade secrets?

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    Geo-tagging or location-based services – not so popular

If you believe venture capitalists or retailers, location-based services are wonderful things and everybody wishes to use them as extensively as possible. Various companies have started offering loyalty or reward programs using location-based services; one of the first was Tasti ice cream.

We tell our team not to use geo-based location networks for privacy reasons and to protect clients. To ensure this works, we have carefully set up our Facebook options:

Now a study conducted using phone interviews to collect information from a representative sample of American online users reports:

    – 1 percent of adult Americans use a location-based service, such as Foursquare or Gowalla,
    – 4 percent use this service at all, down from 5 percent in May 2010, and
    – 6 percent of people using social networking sites also used location-based services.

Since Facebook has now entered the fray, they may go more mainstream than they have so far.

Nevertheless, it seems many users still wonder. Moreover, the amount of useless ‘noise’ one gets while using such a service makes it nearly impossible to monitor these feeds carefully besides Twitter, LinkedIn and Twitter. And yes, location-based discounts have little to do with social networking.

Trend: There will definitely be a group of early adopters continuing in using these services. But simply announcing to the world that I am downtown, hungry or at Starbucks and lonely gets boring fast. Thus, I doubt that more than 20 percent of social network users will starting using geo-tagging or location-based services within the next five years.

What is your opinion? Share your thoughts; I will reply to your comments.


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  • Ricky Peters

    Geotagging has been made popular by the increased use of devices with built-in GPS functionality and the ever greater availability of the mobile Internet.nnLike you, Urs, I find the buzz around location-based services not easy to understand.nnWhile social media has encouraged people to share information, why should I broadcast my location. Who would care and why in my network?nnOf course, retailers can try to overcome my resistance by offering me points in a customer loyalty program … but do my friends care if I just had a Tasti Di-Lite ice cream at my favorite deli?nnWho knows things could improve…. but so far I feel that after some initial excitement, people will get disenchanted… and abandon these things…nnI for one do not want such tweets or wall updates on my social media streem….

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      “Buzz around location-based services is not easy to understand.”nnAgreed, but what is worst is that one might inadvertently violate other people’s privacy.nnAlso, as we know …. any social media activity can be used in a court of law. Just recently a Florida judge rule that Facebook wall posts, connections and so forth are not confidential.nn===> McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway, Inc., PICS No. 10-3174 (Jefferson Co. September 9, 2010, Foradora, P.J.)nnSo why should your location-based updates on Foursquare be any more? What this means during e-discovery is clear, this information will be used by the other party to make its case against you.nnSo it might be a wise choice from refraining to use these services or else be cautious and if in doubt, protect your friends that have a laugh with you in your favorite pub.nn

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks Julian for your contribution.nnI wanted to add another important point: u00a0’Everything can be used against you and could, therefore, ruin your career.’nnThis surely applies when using these netowkrs (see also court ruling – social network information can be used against you in a court of law – Facebook, etc. – see my reply to Ricky below).nnAnd while we may build a large network of connections on u00a0LinkedIn oru00a0Xing, I doubt that it brings much business. u00a0At least it does so not directly but maybe indirectly (see our upcoming post tomorrow about: Social networking and ROI: trends for 2011.nnA profile on LinkedIn oru00a0Xing allows one to join some groups (I recommend no more than 3 to 5 to stay active in each one) and, thereby benefit from and contribute to the discussions and issues raised by group members.nnIn turn, I can gain a better understanding of the issues of the few groups I am a member of.nnAn online CV on u00a0Ziggs will get me some traffic by people searching about me using their favorite search engine. But this information is also served by having the CV online. We have done this regarding some key employees such as u00a0myself .nnJulian, thanks for sharing.nnnn

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  • http://twitter.com/MarieAndreeW Marie-Andree Weiss

    A employer may be able to claim ownership of a Twitter account that was created by a current employee, if this account benefits, at least in part, the company’s good will and good name. If I work for a prestigious company, and tweet about my glamorous life there, my followers are probably interested in reading my tweets because I am an employee at Prestigious Company. rnrnHowever, one can only have one Facebook or LinkedIn account (please correct me if I’m wrong). The emphasis is then on myself, and less on the employer, and the employer could not claim ownership of the account, even though I probably would acquire some contacts only because I am employed by Prestigious Company. rnrnWe will probably see some cases on the topic soon… rnrn

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Marie-Andree (@MarieAndreeW).nnThanks for also putting the above comment on my blog.nnOf course, you have a point when it comes to Facebook or Twitter, namely that if I open an account under my name and I had it when joining Prestigious Company, the account will go with me when I leave.nnIt can also mean that with a customer relationship management account such as @ComCastcares, an individual’s image/face is put on the account. However, when he leaves it will just be replaced by another face …nnSimilar to Facebook, if it is a corporate page on LinkedIn, it is clear that once I leave the Prestigious company, the page stays with my former employer and its fans will no longer benefit from my posts on the page. If those people will even miss me that is..nnBut like you I feel that my personal connections and contacts on LinkedIn, Viadeo or Xing should be my ownnnMarie-Andru00e9e, thanks for sharing.nnPS. I could have several accounts on Facebook or LinkedIn if I wanted to, nothing stops me from doing thatnFor instance, one for work/career purposes and another restricted to very close friends and family members to connect with.

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  • http://twitter.com/solicitorsurvey Andrew Szebeni

    Urs, it is good to see a lawyer applying some common sense to this issue.
    Nonetheless, I am aware of plenty of firms that try to control their employees’ and partners’ uses of LinkedIn and also even monitor them.

    • http://commetrics.com/articles/2011-trends-get-better-roi-with-facebook-twitter-and-youtube/ Urs E. Gattiker

      @twitter-165919137:disqus So glad you took the time to stop by here.

      Thanks for your feedback.That the company tries to control your use of LinkedIn or Facebook, Twitter during working hours is one thing. To succeed, however, is impractical because workers can always and do always use their smartphone devices to update whatever needs updating whilst taking a break (e.g., during lunch hour).

      What I wanted to make clearer here is that what happens to the network if you change employers. I am also not aware of one single case in the US nor Europe (including the UK of course) where such connections/contacts were taken over by the firm when the employee left.  

      Moreover, the contract is between the individual and LinkedIn/Twitter and not the law firm or any employer for that matter.

      Thanks for sharing before this upcoming weekend and I hope you will be back soon, or better, subscribe to our blog using your e-mail address (5,000+ have done so already) see top of post or right hand column on blog)

      Merci @ComMetrics:twitter

  • http://twitter.com/solicitorsurvey/status/122294773800378369 Andrew Szebeni

    Excellent blog and discussion about who owns a solicitor's LinkedIn account http://t.co/1TXrVdNg Thanks Urs

  • http://twitter.com/redstarkim/status/122296551044419584 Kim Tasso

    Excellent blog and discussion about who owns a solicitor's LinkedIn account http://t.co/1TXrVdNg Thanks Urs

  • http://twitter.com/msamyevans/status/122302927707709440 Amy Evans

    ComMetrics weekly review: Who owns my social network? http://t.co/yVloF9Ag

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