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What does it mean if you include your employer’s brand in your Twitter name?

Whoa! Let’s back up and rephrase that highly assumptive opening sentence.

What does it mean if you include your employer’s brand in the name of a Twitter profile operated by you?

In other words, can a Twitter profile operated by you, but which includes your employer’s name, truly be regarded as “yours”?

A recent post on the Brand Republic blog, featuring the case of Laura Kuenssberg, served to highlight that this is currently something of a grey area.

But I doubt very much that it will remain so for long.

Literally overnight, @BBCLauraK became @ITVLauraK. She took circa 60,000 followers with her to her new employer.

And, as one comment on the Brand Republic piece points out, she had been tweeting exclusively about her work at the BBC. The Beeb would have had a legitimate claim that people were following their Political Correspondent, not “some krazy chick called LauraK.”

They would have had a legitimate claim this is, had they shut the barn door before the horse bolted.

This is all about value exchange.

A high social profile has potential value to a potential employer.

Likewise, an employer’s brand has potential value (kudos even) to a potential employee.

Employers and employees have always considered this kind of value exchange. “What value will this person’s CV add to our organisation?” versus “What value will this organisation add to my CV?”

The rise of social platforms has just added another layer to an existing dynamic.

But whereas considerations on both sides of the fence about CV value might have gone unspoken, considerations about social value need to be openly discussed.

What if, for instance, you’re a digital agency looking to hire a new developer? And what if you’re considering two candidates with identical coding skills and experience? Both feel like a good cultural fit, both have the same salary expectations, but one is an accomplished tech blogger with a five figure following of relevant people on Twitter.

It would be highly assumptive of said digital agency to hire candidate B (accomplished blogger) on the expectation of being able to access his or her community but without any kind of up front discussion and agreement.

In these circumstances the potential employee brings to the table a potential asset. A hard earned and valuable asset. And he or she hasn’t used the potential employer’s brand to establish its value. It is a proprietary asset in the potential employee’s name. It is for he or she to decide whether that asset is for sale (“yes I will be ITVLaura”) or rent (“yes I, Laura, will tweet about ITV stuff as and when I feel said stuff is relevant to my followers”).

Whether, and how, that potential value of the employee’s asset might be realised to mutual benefit should be as much a topic of up front conversation as holiday entitlement and working hours.

Your personal brand and your social profile are precious. And, like the full set of  AC/DC albums on vinyl, they should probably be protected by some kind of pre-nuptial agreement that guarantees you continued custody if you and your employer should ever “divorce.”

What if this hypothetical digital agency actually decided in its wisdom to hire candidate A, an accomplished coder with no social profile to speak of?

It would be highly assumptive of of said candidate to incorporate their new employer’s brand into their Twitter name as a shortcut to growing a following, and expect to take that following with them if and when they moved on.

In this case the value equation works the other way and the employer has equal right to “pre-nuptial” protection of its brand name and the potential effect on its reputation of an employee tweeting in its name.

That these things should be discussed in advance rather than in hindsight clearly isn’t as obvious as it should be.

4 Responses to “Personal and professional on Twitter. A marriage made in heaven or hell?”

  1. adpraisal says:

    Interesting stuff, I’d never really thought about this before.

  2. blackwatertown says:

    I see a lot of tweeters mentioning their employer, not in their title but in the first few words of their descriptio. Even when they go on to state clearly that the views expressed are their own alone – I wonder how much rope they’ll be allowed? The BBC producer rules are currently vague – and cite common sense as the basis to work on. We’ll see how that works.

    • philadams1 says:

      Yeah. That amuses me too. The have your cake and eat it thing of benefiting by association whilst at the same time disassociating.

      These things are taken to an entirely different level in media organisations where there are strong reasons to follow both a particular person and their role (job title).

      Thanks as ever for making the effort to comment. Phil

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