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Community Un-Managing: Cheat Sheet for Community Managers and Tips for Companies

I recently left my position managing social media and online community for a large professional association. In the process of disconnecting myself from the organization’s various social media accounts, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen a lot–or anything–written about how to leave a community management position. While going through the process it also occurred to me that companies are setting themselves up for significant problems should they ever have to fire the person who established their organization’s various social media presences because, in many cases,company pages or accounts are linked to personal accounts. Here are some thoughts and suggestions gleaned from the process I just went through:

1. Companies need to have procedures for terminating employees who manage company social media accounts. 

I don’t imagine most companies have a contingency plan for social media accounts when terminating the social media manager. They should. Lots of companies like to not worry about social media and just leave it to the one person managing those accounts. In case you don’t already know this, that practice is not a good idea on many levels, not the least of which is continuity. The same way you’d want the ability to immediately remove someone’s access to company email and files if they’re terminated, you need a to also incorporate something similar for an employee’s access to social media accounts in the event that they’re terminated. It’s not like you can just change the password for the account because company pages for Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ are linked to the person’s personal accounts. Obviously I left on good terms and there were no problems, but as I worked with my boss to transfer ownership of all the accounts, I definitely thought about what a disadvantage companies are at when it comes to corporate social media accounts–a disgruntled employee who is fired and still has control over those accounts could cause a lot of problems.

2. Facebook

Facebook is pretty easy to extricate yourself from–which is a welcome change to the way things were a few years ago, when company pages were set up so that the original creator could NEVER be removed from the page. Now you can have multiple admins for a page and either another one of those admins with page manager rights can remove your admin rights, or you can  remove yourself. Go to “edit page” and “manage admins” and then click the “x” next to your name and save and that’s that. One thing companies should make sure of when establishing a page–or check if the page has already been created–is that there is more than one admin for the company’s page, in the event that the person managing the page either leaves or gets fired. Beyond pages, though, a huge potential liability with Facebook is ads. Because ads are also managed from a personal profile, companies are potentially exposing employees’ personal credit card information. For instance, I managed Facebook ads and promoted posts for several departments across the organization. Therefore I had several different credit cards hooked to my personal account as funding sources for those various promotions. When I went in to remove those credit cards from my account, I realized that Facebook makes it impossible to remove all credit cards–if you’ve placed ads before you have to designate at least one primary funding source and Facebook doesn’t let you remove them all. So in my case I had to add my own personal credit card in order to be able to delete all the other credit cards attached to my account. I also had access to those credit card details–partial account numbers, names, addresses, and expiration dates. Again, it wasn’t an issue with me because I was leaving on good terms and working with those coworkers to get the ad management transferred over to their accounts–a doozy of a chore, btw–and make sure they knew I was deleting their credit card information from my account. But again, in the case of a disgruntled or terminated employee, this could lead to a nightmare.  Especially as Facebook becomes more pay-to-play and companies are likely forced to start at least promoting posts, companies will want to lay out some kind of procedures and policies for how those ads will be billed and how access will be severed in the event of a termination–no easy feat since, again, those credit cards would be attached to personal profiles over which the company has no control. And good luck getting help from Facebook, btw, so it’s imperative that companies plan for this themselves since getting Facebook to help would be a non-option unless a company has a dedicated ad rep.

3. Linkedin

I managed the org’s Linkedin group and company page. Here’s how to remove yourself as the group manager. I believe I tried this and it didn’t work–I just ended up leaving the group and that was the end of that. Ditto for the company page–I couldn’t figure out how to do it and Linkedin help was no help. I finally resorted to contacting them, and three days later they got back to me and were able to help: to remove yourself as an admin of a company page you go to the company page, click edit in the upper right corner, go to the company admins section, click on the “x” next to your name to remove yourself from the admin list then click publish. Again with the liability here–companies should make sure that more than one person is an admin of any company groups and the company page, and should establish some kind of procedure for removing any admin who is terminated.

4. Twitter

I managed a bunch of Twitter accounts, which was tricky because the way Twitter works, you can only have one Twitter account associated with an email address. That means that you can’t just have all company accounts go to webmaster@company.com or whatever email address; each account has to be tied to a different email address, such as an employee’s account, either work or personal. The plus side of Twitter is that as long as you know the login and password for an account, you’re able to login and change the email address associated with that account. The downside of that is once you do login and change the email address, the person at the original email address has to confirm the change. Fine if you’re on good terms with that person; maybe not so good if you’ve just terminated them. The only workaround to the multiple email address thing that I know if is using a gmail address–for some reason you can insert extra characters into a gmail address and have the accounts be considered by Twitter to be unique while in fact they all resolve to the same address. Sounds confusing I know–here’s a better explanation of how it works and how to do it.

5. Pinterest

Pinterest is ok as long as you know the login for the account–a company can just change the password for the account under settings and that’s that. But obviously it underscores the need for companies to make sure they know all passwords for company social media accounts and some kind of procedure for documenting ongoing new accounts and/or password changes.

6. Google+

This is another dicey one since it’s hooked to a personal profile. You can have multiple admins for a Google+ page, so companies should definitely make sure that there’s more than one manager for the company’s page. Here are instructions on how to add managers. To remove yourself as a manager, basically follow those same steps but when you get to the list of managers, click the “x” next to your name and you’ll be removed.

7. Rebelmouse

This is one that could be tricky because you login via another social platform–either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+. As long as you’ve removed yourself as an admin from those platforms or a company has removed you or changed the account password, there shouldn’t be any problem–but if they or you haven’t, then you’d still have access to the account.

8. Private Social Networking Platform

This is one that an individual community manager probably has little control over, as access is likely controlled by the company. So for companies that have a private community platform, there are a few things you’ll want to decide on and make plans for in the event your community manager leaves or is terminated. You’ll want to make sure that you add changing passwords for the private community platform to the list of things IT will do as soon as an employee terminates, either voluntarily or not. As far as what you do with the community manager’s profile and how that may or may not affect their posts in the community–that’s something you’d want to address with the platform’s vendor and something you’ll want to consider from the policy standpoint: when an employee leaves, how will you treat their profile? The content they shared and discussions they were part of while they were employed? Will you or they announce the fact that they’re leaving and let community members know what to expect in the interim? If the community manager is terminated, how will you communicate that information to the community? Lots of things to think about, especially if your community manager is a highly visible part of your online community.

Whew–I’m tired just thinking of all this–did I miss anything? Any other suggestions, thoughts you’d add to this either as a community manager or from a company standpoint?
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{ 2 comments }

Frank_Strong January 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Great point, I’ve just decoupled myself from a number of social sites for an employer.  It is hard work, but we’ve taken care to use generic emails for the accounts so a team has access.

AnneMargar January 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Great post Maggie! More and more organizations are starting to have social media policies, but they usually cover how the employee should present the organization on the different social media platforms. I think where your issue comes up is that for most companies, there is only one person driving the social media platform and others don’t want to worry about it. Great post!

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