If you tweet on behalf of your employer, can the organization hand off your followers to your successor if you leave?
For a metropolitan newspaper, the answer is yes.
The minor kerfuffle surfaced on Wednesday in the Twin Cities. Judd Zulgad, the well-respected Vikings beat reporter for the Star Tribune, had attracted more than 16,000 followers to @juddzulgad, his Twitter account for the newspaper.
In August, Zulgad left the newspaper for a gig with the market’s ESPN radio affiliate. On his last day, he tweeted that “someone covering the Vikings” would inherit his followers.
Nobody seemed to notice – or care. Until Wednesday.
His successor, Dan Wiederer, began tweeting from Zulgad’s account using an updated handle, @StribDW. It prompted a few critical replies from followers (“do your own work,” said one) and a brief story from the local Fox television affiliate. Wiederer called the decision a “corporate thing.”
More importantly, it raised a social media question that you should consider: How would your organization handle a similar employee departure?
The answer likely depends on how you’ve structured your presence. If your organization name is the foundation (such as our @sundogtweets account), your followers are less connected to the individuals behind your tweets. They’re following your organization, and tweets from a new employee shouldn’t alter that relationship – assuming, of course, that the content and trust remain intact.
However, if individual employees are referenced in Twitter handles – or the organization isn’t referenced at all (as in Zulgad’s previous handle) – you enter murky territory.
At minimum, the Star Tribune awkwardly handled the situation. As an alternative, the newspaper could’ve encouraged Zulgad’s followers to follow Wiederer’s new account. It would’ve been a better approach, even if it meant losing some of Zulgad’s following.
Thinking through these scenarios is important as you set up your social media presence – and, ideally, your social media policy should address these inevitable events.