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Law suit wonders the value of a Twitter follower

January 16, 2012

I’m listening to a really good conversation from Search Engine about the value of a Twitter follower. 

Noah Kravitz is being sued by his former company for his Twitter followers. This is the story:

“A Twitter user is being sued for £217,000 by his former employer for taking his online followers with him when he switched jobs. Noah Kravitz, a writer from Oakland, California, amassed 17,000 followers on the social networking site when he worked for PhoneDog, a website providing news and reviews about mobile phones.”

The conversation on Search Engine – like every conversation on Search Engine – is really worth giving a listen. They talk about the value of a Twitter follower, the pros and cons of adding personality to a feed. How Twitter changes the role of a journalist. These are all questions at the heart of Search Engine – a truly awesome podcast from Ontario.

So what is the value of a Twitter follower? In the suit, PhoneDog wants $2.50 a month for 8 months per Twitter follower. That’s an average, obviously – we all get spammed on a daily basis on our Twitter feed. Clearly those people who follow me just to tell me about their iPads or their nudity aren’t worth $2.50, per month.

Tweeting as a person or a brand

This suit does bring up an interesting question, one that is often asked in social media.  Should a company tweet as the logo, or as a person?

The danger of the latter is obvious: people leave. In the case of Noah and PhoneDog, he left. And he took the followers. But lets pretend that PhoneDog had a policy in place to own the Twitter followers of the employee tweeting on their behalf.

Even if Noah handed back the Twitter feed to PhoneDog, one would assume they would need to replace Noah with someone equally as engaging.

Which brings an obvious paradox. Noah built the twitter following to over 17K followers. Lets say he leaves the company and throws the password on the table as he walks out and abandons the Twitter feed. One would suspect that the person who would replace him would understand how to build a following on Twitter, and thus would have a following on Twitter.

It seems like a wash.

However: if the Twitter feed was always PhoneDog, then when a new person comes in, they can simply pick up where the former employee left off.

Yes, some people will know. I’ve managed branded Twitter feeds before, and got to know people personally through the feed. When I left, they knew the feed changed – mostly because they followed me personally on twitter and knew I had moved on.

My point is this: branded Twitter feeds can still have a personality because there is always a person behind them. I feel like I’m generating a personality for the brand I manage – and this brand doesn’t need my name. My personal Twitter feed can be left with Arsenal moaning, kid updating and Foursquare checking in.

The branded account can stay just that, an account without a name with personality. And they will never have to let the followers go.

So what do you think? Does a Twitter feed have to have a name attached to it? What is the value of a Twitter follower? How about a Facebook fan?

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