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Joel Ungar

I'm amazed, although sadly not surprised, by the small mindedness that is still out there. Kudos on an excellent post.


Thanks Jay - In our industry [Recruitment - and I’m sure it’s no different from most others], the lack of understanding of social networking invokes fear and subsequent protectionism. In the end, without risks along the way, growth will not happen or indeed stop completely. Not so long ago employees were banned from using the internet and email altogether. Imagine that today!

In losing good employees there is always a loss of that persons experience and that persons once helpful effort now becomes an opposing force from the other side. But a company might be left with static contacts intact on their internal CRM’s [assuming the company retained that IP along the way], but what cannot be replaced is the particular relationship that was had between ex-employees and the company clients/candidates [some co’s may work towards building a 'brand to business' relationship in a social space but the person to person brand will always win in our industry]. However, whilst an ‘outbound’ trade off for allowing the use of social networking exists, it does work both ways because the ‘inbound’ new recruits will also bring into a company a network of new contacts – not just static contacts, but ones that are warm with existing kudos with the new recruit.

Now and in future, I’m sure we will see prospective employees demonstrating their network presence and recommendations on job applications - just as if it were a skill or experience on a resume today, but equally, employers will seek to check out as to what network prospective employee candidates have in their social space. Most jobs will be filled this way - e.g. on internal networks - even before they are advertised!

Protectionism is not new - it’s just bigger than the older traditional mindsets have had to deal with. It’s not having a network that counts its having the correct network that counts and what you actively do with it. Most occurrences of what is perceived to be being ‘protected’ is I’m sure, already protected and written into existing employment contracts regarding not contacting existing clients for a given time span etc – so it’s pretty much covered as before.

I’m sure your view is balanced and widely across the US but certainly in the UK some Solicitors may offer advice which it too restrictive and harmful to growth - sometimes building restrictive covenants dealing with social networking sites that require employees 'business' contacts’ to even be erased on termination of employment!

So once the naysayers shut up, then the next question they should think about asking is 'how can we?'. If otherwise they are thinking ‘should we?’ then they are not likely to come into the future at all !

Nick Peters

I can't believe this even needed saying, but well done for saying it anyway. I guess some companies are just run by douchebags.


Employer owns employee's services - not "Employee" himself :)

Socially Legal

Great article. We've recently seen a lot of companies awaking to the idea of social media policies in Australia. It is interesting to note the tendency of companies to overact and impose draconian restrictions on their employees' use of the networks that could well become their company's greatest asset in the future.
Well said.


"The correct answer is: shut up." Best legal advice ever! I work in the staffing industry and constantly have to answer questions like these.

It's time everyone understood the boundaries between work and personal have been seriously blurred. No one can "own" your contacts; on LinkedIn or friendships built from in person networking.

My last advice to employers who may find themselves asking this question: get a grip.

Stephen O'Donnell

I agree wholeheartedly with open networks, and that companies should be more concerned about the unpaid leverage they are extorting from employees by making them use their personal brand in this way. In fact its not unlike Amway making sales staff get business from friends and family.

Conversely however, employers might be better tasked to instruct employees NOT to expose their business networks to others (including competitors) by adding their entire client list on Linkedin. Any decent recruiter knows how to uncover clients and candidates from the unprotected networks of rivals at other firms.

Employers who are cagey about sharing information, should instead invest in their own secure system.

Funny enough I have experienced the above last year. Not only they hacked my account and were managing the account while I was on holiday but also they were surprised that I decided to resign after I found out about their actions.

I regret i did not know you Jay in October 2010

Stephen O'Donnell

PS. I have written a fuller response to your article here.

john hailstone

I think you are all missing the point. An employer has a right to protect confidential information that they own. If an employee who's job it is, is to make connections,build relationships and conduct deals on behalf of their employer then takes information and that means databases then they should be sued. linked in is in all and tense and purposes is a database. Why should an employer who has paid someone a salary plus other benefits allow someone to walk out of their door with their client information. You guys need to wake up. There is a difference between using linked in as a personal cv to connect with ex colleagues and business friends but to use is as the main tool in their job and then walk out the door is another thing. Employers need to do more to protect themselves. That means preventing staff from adding connections to their personal account that have been generated during their employment. I would set up a company profile of that staff member and then close it when they leave - simple!

Stephen O'Donnell

John, you should read my blog on the subject.

Mike Taggar

Q: Who own's an employee's social media contacts?

A: Mark Zuckerberg

Ken Magill

This post reminds me of an employer I once had who tried to claim that once reporters left his firm, their sources remained with the company.

I said: "You can have my Rolodex [this was a while ago], but just having their contact information won't make them your sources."

He dropped it.

Chris T

I agree with things like LinkedIn contacts and personal Twitter feeds you use occasionally during work, but predominantly outside. But what about Scott Monty, the face of Ford on Twitter, for example? Surely he has no right to take that profile with him if he was to switch firm?


If the information is in the public domain it is just that. PUBLIC. you cannot classify it as confidential. this is an entirely moot point to any decent employer who requires their staff to add all business use contacts onto their internal database. the information is then never lost........

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