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Twitter account ownership questioned


Tom Callow says an organisation should be careful when employees use handles that include its brand

In an article for The Wall, Automotive PR account manager Tom Callow has questioned the ownership of Twitter profiles that combine both employee and employer names.

He notes that the BBC’s chief political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, with the handle @BBCLauraK, has now switched to ITV and her account has been renamed accordingly, to @ITVLauraK. Because of this, the BBC 'lost' 60,000 followers, and Callow thinks the BBC "had a pretty decent ownership claim on the @BBCLauraK Twitter account", in part on the basis that he considers Twitter closer in nature to a blog than names in an address book.

"Whilst the microblogs of BBC correspondents are running off Twitter’s servers, the BBC is controlling what tweets go out and must be able to stake a claim on the ownership of each official account - not least because they are now promoted so prominently on screen during news bulletins and even shows like Newsnight and Question Time," he said, in his article.

BBC News Channel controller Kevin Bankhurst subsequently said in a tweet that "Twitter users can make up their own minds—and hopefully follow Laura as well as ".

Callow told .net that issues surrounding the ownership of Twitter accounts first appeared to him when people moved roles in his sector (the automotive PR industry) changed handles to reflect their employers. We asked Callow if he thought organisations should do more to safeguard popular accounts and set rules for its employees. "That's very much up to the organisation,” he said. “I certainly think that treating social media as pretty organic is good practice and being too prescriptive tends to suffocate ideas and personalities." But he warned that companies should have policies in place regarding brands being used within usernames, and that editorial lines should not become blurred.

In journalism and other fields, Callow argues that including your employer's name within a handle is a double-edged sword: "It can give you credibility if your organisation is prestigious and a trusted source, but it also burdens users with greater responsibility for what they write and perhaps even less freedom".

His personal view is that organisational feeds should be the place where you find company names, and if you're tweeting in an individual capacity - even if you're doing so for an employer - it "might be best to exclude your organisation's name to be on the safe side, unless there is a clear policy stating that you own that account outright".