Hey, Tweeter. Are You Really Free as a Bird?

Blu Blu SkyDo you use Twitter at work? Can a value be attached to the account’s followers?

A recent lawsuit filed by South Carolina-based interactive mobile news and reviews site PhoneDog Media puts the sum at $2.50 per month per follower.

As reported on paidContent.org, the company sued former employee Noah Kravitz. Journalist Kravitz had established a Twitter account while working for PhoneDog.

The account reached 17,000 followers during his period of employment.

Kravitz’s tweets were a mix of work and non-work-related information. He also engaged in conversations with followers, leveraging the strength of Twitter’s platform to establish connections.

He explained to Philip Berne of Slashgear why he started using Twitter.

“I saw enough of the people around me using it that I figured I should be paying attention. And seeing as I make a living posting content to the Web – and tech-related content at that – it seemed like a good, potentially great, way to spread the word about what I was doing.”

When Kravitz left PhoneDog, he changed the Twitter handle on the account to his own name and continued sending tweets to followers.

A company representative told Computerworld that the account was intended to promote the company’s brand, not the individual.

A federal judge in San Francisco is allowing the company’s lawsuit to go forward as more information is sought. Questions remain about whether a Twitter account and password are company trade secrets.

Based on the value it assigned per follower, the company is seeking $340,000 from Kravitz.

Dubious metric?
By some accounts, the $2.50 per follower sought is a tad high. A report in TechCrunch notes that services on eBay promise to build a following for less than a penny each.

Of course, you likely get what you pay for. It’s questionable whether a list built in this way would deliver the engaged audience most organizations seek.

The lawsuit, however, raises interesting questions for companies and employees alike, especially in an age when social media offers branding opportunities — both for organizations and individuals.

Is building a Twitter following for a journalist similar to the ongoing relationship building PR representatives do with the media? Those relationships often continue when the PR rep moves to new employment.

Now, it’s your turn. If an employee tweets about work-related information on a social media account, should the account be considered company property? Is the situation different for a journalist?

Many thanks to Applegurl ♥♫♥ for the majestic sky photo via Flickr.

You might also enjoy Should Your Company Avoid Social Media?

About creativeconsiderations

Christine Sullivan is a communications strategist with expertise in communications planning, writing and content development, and executive communications. She can be reached at mycreativeconsiderations@gmail.com.
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