Times of India social media dictate

Print is surely feeling the tremors of digital in the country. Before it is too late Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL)—India’s largest media conglomerate and publisher of the Times of India, Economic Times, among many other properties wants to fasten its seat belt. The company wants to build its social clout, get more reach for its content on social media with its employees tweeting and spreading from their official accounts.

The company has a tweaked social media policy but with the controversial clauses being left as is, reports Quartz India. The new policy was circulated among employees on the night of August 27th after the bizarre old policy got batted earlier this week. While there are some changes but the policy retains most of the controversial clauses, including the one that encourages employees to convert their personal social media accounts to official ones and hand over passwords to the company.

Earlier circular from BCCL

Earlier this week, Quartz had got hold of a copy of the contract circulated to the employees by Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd. which told employees not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. It also stated that journalists have been asked to disclose all personal social media accounts and going further the company will own the log-in credentials of such accounts to use its own discretion.

The contract went one step ahead and also added that even if the person leaves the firm, the company will still reserve the rights to continue operating that account in their name. So the only way left for the staff working at the organization is to either agree to convert the personal account into a company account, or start a new company account.

The story went viral on social media and we saw Satyan Gajwani, CEO of Times Internet tweeting that the story carried by Quartz is not true. Though there wasn’t any statement carried out by the company, a new social media policy has been issued.

Three major changes in the new policy

The new social media policy has two new changes:

1. The clause that the company could continue to post updates from an employee’s account even after they leave, has been removed.

2. Another clause that earlier prohibited an employee from posting news links on her personal social media account, has now become bit confusing. The new circular states while you may have two social media profiles, all content related to your primary role at BCCL should be solely posted on the company user account. These links then can be re-tweeted from your personal account.

3. The company has also suggested staffers to maintain one account, which by default, becomes the official account. So all journalists are expected to create a company user account on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The display name of these accounts should be the name of the employee, suffixed with the brand she works for. So let’s say if I am joining TOI then my company Twitter account would be @PrasantTOI, so on and so forth. We have seen Dell and other companies doing this on Twitter.

However, the new changed policy has no problem if you have a personal account but it advises only to have one account for the following reasons:

The Company would prefer that users maintain a single account, to keep a genuine and honest approach to the consumer at large, and frankly, because it’s easier to manage. But it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. If you prefer to keep separate accounts, please inform your brand representative of your personal accounts’ usernames. But it will be in YOUR interest to keep One User Account.

In simple word,s BCCL wants its employees to have one social media account that is of course the official account!

Controversial clauses still remain intact in the new policy

The new social media policy still has controversial clauses intact such as:

1. Personal social media accounts should be disclosed to the company.

2. BCCL will have access to the passwords to the company accounts at all times and can post any material they deem fit.

If needed, Company may request access Password(s), for the Company User Account, which shall be used by you on behalf of the Company to make posts. Company retains administration rights of the Company User Account, which shall be made accessible to the Company on demand for fulfilling any statutory obligations/compliance of laws/or otherwise. It is understood that sharing of such details of the Company User Account shall be an integral part of your contract with the Company and shall be disclosed and shared with the Company at any time.

This also means that BCCL can post anything on behalf of the employee from news/stories to advertisement. Since the new contract says so.

The Company may upload news or other material on the Company User Account through any means, including automated upload streams, at its sole discretion, during your Contract with the Company.

3. The company will have access to all followers/friends of company user accounts. Any future revenue from such accounts shall belong solely to the company.

While we debate on the pros and cons of the social media policy at BCCL, this is only the beginning of such policies at all other publications. For now TOI is giving company to The Hindu with more publishers to join in the near future.

Everyone wants their stories to go viral in this social media age.