Who owns your Twitter handle if it’s half professional and half personal? Along with your email inbox and keycard entry, do you need to hand over your @Company_MyName handle and all of its followers on your last day? An unfolding court case will determine just that, and community managers around the world are paying attention.
Noah Kravitz and PhoneDog are currently embroiled in a landmark lawsuit that may change the way Twitter handles are created, used, and eventually handed off in the workplace. Noah and his currently employer, TechnoBuffalo, have sounded off on the matter, and PhoneDog has posted a public statement. Great coverage has appeared in Time, the New York Times, and countless tech blogs, so I won’t dig into the details here. If you want to go deep, here’s the court filing.
PhoneDog’s largest allegation is that Kravitz owes the company $340,000 for the following he took with him as @PhoneDog_Noah. PhoneDog alleges that “industry standard” places the value of a Twitter follower at $2.50. Times that by the 8 months in question and the 17,000 followers amassed and Kravitz allegedly owes PhoneDog $340,000.
But my question is – what “industry standard” places a follower at $2.50? What about non-tweeting followers – those who use Twitter simply for news? What about bots? Are they worth $2.50 as well? Using the highly reputable and scientifically sound WhatisMyTwitterAccountWorth, I discovered @NoahKravitz’s account to be worth only $10,046! And TweetValue places it even lower at $5,080. My luddite grandmother, who proudly proclaims I work “on the internet”, values the account at zero. In our own research last spring, we found the average value of a follower to be $.25 per month, valuing the account at $34,000 over the eight month period.
PhoneDog’s allegations might have more weight if the values used were rooted in actual data rather than an “industry standard” that the industry clearly doesn’t agree with. But whether $1 or $1,000,000, this story isn’t ultimately about money. It’s a case of mismanagement.
Social accounts have become significant corporate assets, and should be treated as such. When an employee borrows a company car, they get the keys—the company doesn’t also give them the title. It’s clear that the company owns the car, and the keys are on loan. Companies need to be managing their social accounts the same way.
This is actually one of the core functions that any social media management system provides. Employees that use Argyle, or any SMMS, don’t have direct access to social accounts. They have access to the SMMS, which can get revoked at any time.
If PhoneDog had taken the appropriate steps to protect their corporate assets, they wouldn’t find themselves in court today.