Would you pay $2.50 for a Twitter follower?
One tech news site is suggesting that a former employee cough up $2.50 – per month – for each of his 17,000 followers that he took with him after leaving his post.
They’re suing him for a grand total of $340,000. And the case hasn’t been thrown out. Yet.
A federal judge ruled last week that news site PhoneDog (@PhoneDog) actually had a potential case against former employee Noah Kravitz (@NoahKravitz), but that more evidence would have to be presented.
PhoneDog is suing Kravitz over the 17,000 followers that his Twitter account had when he left the company. While he was working for the news site, his handle had been @PhoneDog_Noah. The company argues that he simply changed the name to @NoahKravitz when he left, and continued to tweet to these followers.
They claim that since he had acquired these followers while working, and closely associated, with PhoneDog, the password and identity of those followers was their trade secret.
Specifically, as Eric Goldman reports, PhoneDog is suing on three fronts:
“(1) misappropriation of trade secrets, (2) interference with economic advantage; and (3) conversion.”
They are asking for $2.50 for each follower per month that Kravitz benefited from them, for a grand total of $340,000.
PhoneDog claims that $2.50 is the “industry standard” for the value of a Twitter follower, but to be honest it’s not a number I’ve heard thrown around in any Twitter-related conversation I’ve ever had. Plus, as PaidContent points out, there are reports out there suggesting that a Twitter follower is worth less than a penny.
One of Kravitz’s arguments against PhoneDog’s valuation was that the value in a Twitter account really “comes from . . . efforts in posting tweets and [an] individual’s interest in following . . . not from the account itself.”
It’s an interesting argument, and part of a case that isn’t black and white. There is some validity, I think, to the claim that Twitter followers have a value (but not nearly as high as $2.50 in my opinion) on their own merits, but a large part of that value must stem from the activity of the account they are following – if the tweets did not interest the followers, they would not subscribe to that account in the first place.
And if the arguments were centered around whether Kravitz amassed his 17,000 followers based on his own merits or because of his association with PhoneDog, I think the issue becomes even more complex.
This is a case of who owns what when it comes to social media after an employer-employee split, and it will be interesting to see which side the judge ultimately rules on after all the evidence is in.
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