How to avoid spamming social media against my will?
January 16, 2014 3:13 PM   Subscribe

My boss has asked all 8 of us employees to start liking/following/sharing our company's various pages and posts on all the social media platforms, and inviting our friends to do the same. (We have individual pages for each of our 4 products). I am vehemently against doing this, as are a couple others. The boss has tasked the most social media savvy employee amongst us to make sure the rest of us are complying.

The henchman has suggested we create separate accounts if we don't already have them, or don't want to use our personal accounts, or he will helpfully create them for us. Either way this would still require us to have friends associated with these accounts in order to spam them.

How can I avoid this altogether? They know I have FB/Twitter accounts.
posted by Josephine Macaulay to Work & Money (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can't you just make your Facebook private so they can't check up on it? Change your Twitter name and tell them you deleted Twitter if they aren't following you already?
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:14 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

How can I avoid this altogether?

I hate to go all cliché on this, but... Learn to say "I'm afraid that won't be possible." Your employer is asking you to do something that is, at the least, unconventional. They either realize that (in which case declining is appropriate) or they don't realize that (in which case they are clueless). Either way, it's time to set some boundaries. Personal activities are quite distinct from business work, and that's a great place to set the boundary. Don't justify your boundaries because that invites negotiation and argumentation. Simply state they exist and see how they react.

A useful thing to remember is your employer really can't do anything to you except fire you. If they do fire you, you don't want to work for them anyway, and they won't be able to contest an unemployment claim very easily. If they don't fire you (which is highly likely), then you win with effectively no effort put into this.
posted by saeculorum at 3:20 PM on January 16, 2014 [16 favorites]

I would take him up on his offer to create a fake profile for you. If he uses a photo of you, I would then report it to Facebook as someone impersonating you and get them to delete it. That way you avoid a confrontation yet never have to actually endorse anything and it looks like Facebook just took it on themselves to remove a double account. If he does it again, rinse, repeat. Your boss is a tool.
posted by Jubey at 3:23 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tell them you will log into the company account and post things there if they want. Your personal accounts are just that.

Basically, say no politely.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 3:23 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you don't want to use your personal accounts for something like this, it's completely understandable. At the same time, it's also very normal for people to have one social media account for personal use, and another that's professional - both under the same name (no deception intended).

I wouldn't feel comfortable using a personal account for something like this, but I struggle to see what the issue is with having a professional account on social media that's used to distribute company material. That strikes me as a reasonable job request, and provides a fair accommodation for anyone who doesn't want to mix work and personal accounts.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:28 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

For Facebook I would just make a Facebook friend group comprised entirely of co-workers and post it all to that group. No one else will see it.
posted by Jairus at 3:29 PM on January 16, 2014 [26 favorites]

Alternately, you could tell him you'll do it, then unfriend whomever this media savvy person is who is keeping an eye on you all so they have no way of knowing if you're trying to get anyone to like it it not. If they can't follow you they can't know. If they say something like why did you defriend me, just apologise, tell them you must have accidentally deleted them and you'll get onto that... and then just conveniently forget.
posted by Jubey at 3:29 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is complete bullcrap. My former employer made such a request at a meeting. I smiled, said nothing, and left that job later that year.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:31 PM on January 16, 2014

Don't over estimate the skills of the media savvy person here...if they really were media savvy they would let your boss know this was a bad idea...

If this works well and you get attention someone will start asking questions and it will backfire...if it works poorly you have wasted a bunch of peoples time doing something that is marginally ethical for no good reason...
posted by NoDef at 3:33 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you like and follow but not evangelize? Or evangelize quietly in a "look, I don't usually do this, but I thought some of you guys might want to know about..." sort of way?

I mean, is this some kind of Amway racket, or are your company products something you stand behind and would recommend to friends regardless?

I work in a field where social networking is a thing, and I usually will just share a work thing once and say something like, "Not sure if any of you guys are Tina Fey or Paul Rudd fans, but on the off chance that you are, ADMISSION opens this Friday, with my name is the credits!" That way I'm not forcing anything on anybody, and being open about my interest in people engaging with the content.

The Facebook group just for coworkers is a great idea.
posted by Sara C. at 3:45 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

"i would be pleased to set up a separate account, 'robobruce' and hand its login over to you, so you can like, follow, fawn and truckle any damn thing on the internet that you see fit...

"how do i feel about doing this in my own, native account? it's like this. imagine that i worked in a legal brothel in rural nevada, giving blowjobs to strangers for money. under nevada law, the strangers have to wear a condom. on the internet, there's no way i can be assured within my comfort and safety margin that you're wearing a condom."
posted by bruce at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are we painting with too broad a brush here? I agree that the request, as stated, oversteps some boundaries. But with professional and personal circles mingling, it's not necessarily beyond the pale to ask for some social media amplification.

For instance, I'd feel very different about LinkedIn, especially in a sales-y type position. My LinkedIn contact list is full of former colleagues on both the vendor/service provider and the purchaser/client side of my (relatively small) specialty niche of the legal field, and it's wholly appropriate in my mind for likes/shares off the employer, and for the employer to ask (but not require) that. Now, when I see a friend on my feed talk about the "incredible synergy with resources and experience to augment our own" when talking about a recent acquisition announced today, I kind of groan and raise an eyebrow. But it's relevant.

Same thing with Twitter. It depends on the nature of the account and the followers. I follow (professionally) a bunch of folks on Twitter who tweet about issues of interest to me, professionally. This includes some vendor reps, who occasionally tweet about their webinars, conferences, white papers, new products, etc. I can think of one or two of these folks who have a "mixed use" Twitter account, where they tweet about personal stuff, too. So if you're tweeting about stuff of interest to your industry, and you have followers who are part of the employer's audience, that also strikes me as a legitimate request for the employer to make.

This is all quite different for a personal Facebook account, where all you have are pictures of your family and pets, if your employer is suddenly demanding that you start posting about the latest trends in ERP procurement solutions or whatnot that your friends on Facebook wouldn't give a damn about.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2014

Maybe I'm not answering the question, but I would create a social media account literally called "Josephine's Widgetco Account." I would not use my photo or last name. I would not add any friends or associates to these accounts. I would cheerfully post whatever bullshit they put out and move on.

If you're going to force me to do it, I'm going to do it like you forced me to.
posted by cnc at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would create business accounts. It's not uncommon to have a handle such as "BusinessRobert" or "BusinessJane". Or "BusinessMarketingDude". Your employer can ask you to use social media at work and to create a business profile and so on. I would not use my personal profile. But asking employees to use social media accounts for work is within normal practices. It sounds like he made it clear that you could use a business profile to do this.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:55 PM on January 16, 2014

Could you make a Josephine's Widgetco Account, and then recruit a few close friends/siblings to add this account as a friend, and then they could just "hide all posts by Josephine's Widgetco Account" to avoid the spam?

That way, it looks like you have *some* friends, but you're not actually annoying anyone. (Beyond the one setup bit.)
posted by ktkt at 3:56 PM on January 16, 2014

This Ask a Manager post (and comments) may be helpful.
posted by payoto at 3:59 PM on January 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

First, your company needs to sit down and create a social media policy, a social media strategy, and social media goals. They they need to decide how they are going to measure success. They need to decide how they are going to handle it when an employee publicly does something stupidly and how they will react internally. They need to having reasonable expectations and a plan. They need to know how to handle people engaging their brand poorly.

I could go on for days on this, but basically what your employer is proposing is a bad idea. There's ill will and the possibility of backlash.

Buy these books: SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate and QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground and then hit me up if you want to talk more. (Disclaimer: I am friends with both authors on social media.)

I have spoken on this subject at "lunch and learns," and tried to get my former employer to actually get a cohesive idea together, but eh. I would suggest your social media savvy people would have sent up a red flag (they don't sound that savvy to me).

Personally, I wouldn't want my employees doing this shit. It's like trusting the intern with your company twitter.

My last employer required every employee to engage in social media. To tweet links to stories, to make Facebook posts, etc. But they had policies and expectations. I still thought they did it poorly (it was left up to the individual too much as to what level of engagement happened).
posted by cjorgensen at 4:02 PM on January 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

cjorgenson has it right in terms of how this should go.

My biggest issue with this is that if you are going to make people use their own social media rather than a company account, you will want to control what else they do on the social media. If they do not understand this objection, I would make your Facebook and Twitter so unprofessional that they do not want their stuff associated with it.

Change your facebook name to "Josephine Cruises18YearOlds" and post a bunch of weird and disgusting stuff constantly (like instructions for tying awesome bondage knots, infected wounds, and Mapplethorpe photos). Then you can point out you did share that page about WidgetCo's new line of widgets--it's just that you posted a lot today because you found a whole plethora of photos of dudes with whips up their butts and NEEDED TO SHARE IT ALL, ONE PER MINUTE, so it's understandable that your social media folks missed it. Then I'd offer to share the widget page inbetween every one of my favorite photos so it would not get missed (and so your page is "pic of nude butts, widgetco ad, pic of people french-kissing dogs, widgetco ad, goatse, widgetco ad").

Or, I would spend all my time on FB and Twitter, ignore my real work, then act like I didn't understand why I am supposed to do FB and Twitter for work but I can't be on them at work?

But I also have no stake in keeping my facebook page sane, and also enjoy saying insane things in front of my boss with a straight face (I got a lot of practice at some toxic jobs), so YMMV.
posted by holyrood at 4:15 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have henchmen make an account and proceed to friend a whole bunch of bot and/or fake accounts. Technically you'd be doing as he asked - he never said the 'friends' had to be real.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:20 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

"boss, i HAVE NO FRIENDS on social media. nobody in the world, not even my own parents, loves me enough to do that one little click that would grant me entry to their world, but widgetco...widgetco saw value where nobody else could, picked me up off the ground and stood me on my feet, redeemed my purpose in living, and i've repaid widgetco by ferociously enhancing shareholder value every day, so GET OUT OF MY WAY!"
posted by bruce at 4:21 PM on January 16, 2014

My boss asked us to 'like' the company FB entries, not demanded it or even pushed very hard, but I understand how you don't want to shove your family & friends under the company bus.

I went the two-accounts route: one 'real' account, for those friends & family; I already had a second one, one I used for everything else, like liking various groups and organizations or playing silly games with internet strangers. That second account is the one I liked for work: I keep a strict divide between the two, and never let them overlap.
posted by easily confused at 4:21 PM on January 16, 2014

"My friends and social media contacts are all well aware of where I work, and don't need reminders of that cluttering up their streams. If you believe that a campaign to associate followers with your account, and make your brand further beholden to Facebook, serves our business interests then I will happily create a secondary account, and manage it during work hours, for that purpose."

Or: "This is like asking me to wear company branded clothing at all times. While I'm happy to support the company, I'd no more do this than wear a T-shirt with the company logo to fine dining with friends."

But, really: I'd harp on the fact that by playing into the "more followers better!" thing they're giving away valuable portions of their brand to Twitter and Facebook, and that's just not a smart play.
posted by straw at 4:26 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I will create new social-media accounts that is strictly for business. I will 'like' and 'share' company stuff. I will also write company-related posts (within limits) that are a bit of marketing for the company (e.g. helping customers using the products you created) and a bit marketing for your own career (e.g. sharing what is the proudest features of the products you created).
From the impression you gave, these social-media accounts seem not to be company accounts, so I will also make sure nobody else can log in to the accounts you created. (Technically, you will not want to log in to these accounts using company's computers and network.)
posted by applesurf at 4:52 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I strongly recommend that you do not make an account full of horribly unprofessional stuff unless you want to not be able to get another job ever.

Have them make a business account for you. Add coworkers and aquaintences only. Post what they tell you to post and no more.
posted by windykites at 5:02 PM on January 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ugh, this sounds like something my boss would pull. Do you think you can make a stand without being fired (or do you not care if you are fired)? I personally would probably just flat-out tell my boss that no, I wasn't going to do that. He seems to respect me more and has in the past actually thanked me for "yelling" at him, because "someone needed to do it." Is there any chance that your vehement refusal on this issue would make him see that this must be a bad idea if you are willing to risk being fired it?

Also, I'd tell him that Facebook doesn't want individuals to have more than one account. They can delete both the second account AND your original account if they find out. I'm not sure how heavy enforcement is, but I know 2 people that this has happened to.
posted by coupdefoudre at 5:43 PM on January 16, 2014

Why don't you just make a new Twitter? I have a Twitter for work. It would turn my co-workers' hair white if they saw my personal Twitter.

Facebook, I understand is trickier, but I really don't see how it can be caught if you use your work e-mail to create a new account, which you use only for this work stuff, and only post work pictures and connect with co-workers.

(I also agree that your boss, if he has a lick of sense, will appreciate having it pointed out that a social media policy is necessary and that this is a terrible idea all around.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2014

"How much time would you like me to divert from my current responsibilities and towards social media marketing?"

Your work is asking you to take on additional duties that you never signed up for, perhaps on de facto overtime that they aren't going to pay you for, and this question will make that clear and likely save you from it (assuming your boss thinks that you are doing something useful at your job, which presumably s/he does).
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:16 PM on January 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

The henchman has suggested we create separate accounts if we don't already have them, or don't want to use our personal accounts, or he will helpfully create them for us. Either way this would still require us to have friends associated with these accounts in order to spam them.

Tell the henchman to set up those alternative accounts for you. Then, whenever you get one of those inevitable spam "friend me/follow me" requests on the alternative accounts, accept it and friend/follow them back on that account. Post your spam happily in the direction of those people; they have you as an additional friend/follower, you have them as fake friends to appease your boss.

Meanwhile, don't share your personal accounts with the henchman or your boss. If pressed, do as Noisy Pink Bubbles suggests:

Them: "Say, you don't have many friends or family on your accounts. Are these even your real accounts?"

You: "They are my accounts; henchman offered to set them up for me, I'm not really much into social media. Oh, that reminds me, I've been meaning to ask: how much time should I be spending on marketing the company this way? Like, just a link a week, or half an hour a day, or what?"
posted by davejay at 9:45 PM on January 16, 2014

If you don't want the confrontation, create a separate account, go to and spend five bucks with any of the many people there who will provide you with a bunch of fake Facebook/Twitter friends, then spam away. Preferably while on the clock.
posted by bac at 10:43 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

saeculorum has it. "I'm afraid that won't be possible" is like magic. I didn't believe that it would work very well, until I actually tried it on my boss once. I said it, and that was the end of the conversation. Totally over.

Let the company do what it wants re setting up fake accounts. Just warn all of your friends that any friend requests from someone purporting to be you should be declined and reported as fake accounts. This will be easier if the henchman isn't already a Facebook friend - just block that person so they can't actually find you (or your contacts) on Facebook at all.

Or, if you are somehow forced into this, get the people who are viewing the ads to write really bad things about the product right underneath the ads. Your boss can't control what these people write, and it might make them think twice about spamming these people.
posted by Solomon at 12:11 AM on January 17, 2014


2. the deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product, cause, etc., undertaken by people or organizations with an interest in shaping public opinion: In some countries astroturfing is banned, and this includes sponsored blog posts.
posted by tgov27 at 2:47 AM on January 17, 2014

Nthing "I'm afraid that won't be possible." If you get pushback from that, be prepared to state clearly and firmly why you don't believe it's appropriate for your employer to expect you to use your personal web presence and personal connections for their ends.

One of my close friends had a lot of pressure from her employer to do this, and for the most part she went along with it - but she also set up a private Twitter account which people she actually knew could follow and used it to tell horror stories about the workplace (the culture wasn't good in general). This reflected really badly on the employer, and this is just one small, low-impact example - if you're still getting pressure from them, it might be worth pointing out all the ways that lazy/inept social media usage can backfire on businesses and do more much damage to their reputation than the potential gain they'd have got from you pushing their stuff through your own accounts.
posted by terretu at 3:04 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually, I think this is exactly what LinkedIn is for, and I would be ecstatic if my employer requested that I do work-related activities on social media, because that would mean I'd get paid to network and keep my LinkedIn profile updated. As far as fb/twitster/whatever, they'd get a simple, "No."
posted by disconnect at 6:51 AM on January 17, 2014

bruce: "i would be pleased to set up a separate account, 'robobruce' and hand its login over to you, so you can like, follow, fawn and truckle any damn thing on the internet that you see fit...

Solomon: Let the company do what it wants re setting up fake accounts.

You should absolutely not let anyone else control an account with your name attached to it. Presumably you won't be working for this company indefinitely, and who knows what they will post using your identity that will be searchable later.

The most you should do is create a separate identity, only friend your coworkers, and limit your required "liking" to that group. Make it private from the rest of the world.
posted by desjardins at 11:55 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

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