The continuing growth and business integration of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google signifies that social media is entering all aspects of everyday life. Businesses, for one, increasingly rely on social media to promote their brands, advertise products, and connect with clients and potential clients. In fact, 2012 will mark the first time that online advertising spending will surpass print advertising spending in total dollars.[FOOTNOTE 1]
At the same time, individuals are increasingly registering social media accounts -- Facebook alone has over 800 million active users.[FOOTNOTE 2] Individuals also increasingly access these social media accounts while at work. Forty-eight percent of firms say that all employees are permitted to access social networking sites at work for non-business use.[FOOTNOTE 3]
The line between online work and personal life -- and the content each generates -- is increasingly blurring. Employees spend time on social media platforms at work while also promoting themselves and their companies via social media. As a result, questions inevitably arise as to who exactly is building a brand, what the brand is, and who owns any customers.
If a company contributes content or otherwise assists in building an employee's social media account, who owns the account and who should reap the fruits of the account's success? If a LinkedIn account that an employee and employer jointly contribute to makes connections and brings in clients, whose clients are these? Many would argue that, given the personal nature of social media, an employee "owns" the account and the content and benefits it produces.
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By: Michael Masri and Pedram Tabibi