Keeping Home and Work Separate on Social May Become Law

Maybe the new password for client channels should be N-O-T-Y-O-U-R-S.

Social media policies are something few companies have in print–but they really should consider creating such guidelines immediately. The reason is simple: social media is now as much of a part of PR as the classic press release.

To wit, traditional PR teams are becoming familiar with the “digital PR strategist” role. This is a necessity for an integrated process; however, said strategist needs to know how important it really is to keep one’s home and work lives separate on social.

Over the weekend, we got to meet Jeremy Alcede of Houston.

jeremy alcede
PHOTO: AP/Pat Sullivan

According to this AP story (via, Alcede used social media (a lot) to promote his gun store. He posted “politically charged messages” that criticized the president and promoted Second Amendment rights because of course he did.

During his run of epic soapbox rants, he mismanaged some funds and filed for bankruptcy. He lost his store, and that’s when the fun began.

After losing ownership of his suburban Houston store in bankruptcy, Alcede spent nearly seven weeks in jail for refusing a federal judge’s order to share the passwords of the store’s Facebook and Twitter accounts–which the judge had declared “property”–with its new owner.

“It’s all about silencing my voice,” said Alcede, who was released in May after turning over the information. “… Any 3-year-old can look at this and tell this is my Facebook account and not the company’s.”

The problem was that Alcede used his personal accounts for professional services…and despite his feelings, these channels legally became someone else’s property because of the bankruptcy. Ergo, cough up the passwords.

The story cites U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeff Bohm, who shares something for all PR people to write on a post-it and stick to the monitor:

“The landscape of social media is yet mostly uncharted in bankruptcy.”

The IRS tends to cast a big net to get its money…and its property. The problem that some business owners don’t understand is that marketing collateral and tools could be included as property, so social media channels are definitely affected.

This case could become that legal precedent moving forward. This is why:

“If your business is something you feel very passionately about, it can be hard to separate those things,” said Benjamin Stewart, a Dallas-based bankruptcy lawyer. “The moral for people is you have to keep your personal life separate from your business life.”

Mic. Dropped.