Imagine a situation where you have a small business that is planning a major event at a sports venue and needs to utilize a variety of social media channels to publicize the event and garner support for it. Such a business may engage a third party to assist it in managing its social media presence on Facebook and Twitter in order to maximize their ability to generate ticket sales and interest in the event. Your small business turns over its passwords and username to the third party so that they can perform the agreed upon services. Several months after the event and after payment for these services, the parties get into a fee dispute over unrelated services and the third party changes the username of the business to the third party’s name on Facebook, then changes the passwords for Facebook and other social media accounts. Your small business is effectively locked out of its social media accounts.
For many this may seem improbable, but disputes related to the creation and management of social media accounts are on the rise. The increased use of social media accounts as a marketing tool for businesses and the proliferation of businesses that are willing to provide social media management expertise are causing an increase in the number of disputes. These disputes are not confined to outside businesses providing social media management services, but they often arise in the context of employees who are tasked with managing the social media accounts of their employer. The court system now has to apply legal theories that may not be a perfect fit for the issues created by the widespread use of these valuable social media accounts. The good news, however, is that businesses and individuals can protect themselves through clear contractual safeguards.
Originally published in The Social Media Monthly - April 2013.
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