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Twitter Feed At Center Of Workplace Lawsuit: How Much Is A Twitter Follower Worth?

Submitted by on December 29, 2011 – 11:03 am2 Comments
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The New York Times reports that popular mobile phone website Phonedog.com is suing a former employee over the use of a Twitter feed that was originally for the site’s outreach. At the center of the issue is the question: does the Twitter account belong to the individual who opened it, or to the company who oversaw it? If the case goes to trial, it could have deep ramifications for the role of social media in the workplace.

Noah Kravitz worked for the mobile news, reviews, and retail site for four years before leaving in October 2010. During that time, he set up a Twitter account with the name Phonedog_Noah, and gained 17,000 followers. Kravitz claimed that Phonedog said he could keep the account, if he occasionally tweeted on their behalf. But eight months later, after Kravitz had changed the name of the account to NoahKravitz, Phonedog hit him with a lawsuit for $340,000— $2.50 per follower per month.

Phonedog released a brief statement, saying that the costs to build their social media presence are “substantial,” and that they would “aggressively protect” their brand. The statement also implied that they consider the Twitter account a “customer list.”

One expert explained how this case could affect much more than the parties involved:

“This will establish precedent in the online world, as it relates to ownership of social media accounts,” said Henry J. Cittone, a lawyer in New York who litigates intellectual property disputes. “We’ve actually been waiting to see such a case as many of our clients are concerned about the ownership of social media accounts vis-á-vis their branding.”

Mr. Cittone added that a particularly important wrinkle is what value the court might set on the worth of one Twitter follower to a media company, saying the price set could affect future cases involving ownership of social media.

What do you think? Should companies have tighter control over employees’ social media presence? Can you put a price on a Twitter follower?

[image via MarketingHackz]

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