US Court May Have to Decide How Much One Twitter Follower is Worth

Mike Halsey MVP
Dec 27, 2011
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Internet, Twitter

A court in the US might have to decide just how much a Twitter follower is worth after a Californian man took 17,000 followers with him after leaving a job.  Noah Kravitz, a writer was working for mobile phone website Phonedog.  While there he began tweeting under the name Phonedog_Noah about the company and its products in a public relations role where he gained the followers.

When he left the company though he took all those followers with him and Phonedog asked if he'd keep tweeting about them, to which he said "Sure" and changed the name of his account to NoahKravitz.

All was well for eight months until Phonedog announced that the Twitter followers amounted to a "customer list" and announced they were suing, seeking damages of $2.50 a month for each follower for each month since Mr Kravitz had left the company.  In total the suit was for $340,000.

Henry J. Cittone, a New York intellectual property lawyer told the New York Times...

“This will establish precedent in the online world, as it relates to ownership of social media accounts.  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.”

Apparently the case could hinge on why the Twitter account was opened.

“If it was to communicate with PhoneDog’s customers or build up new customers or prospects, then the account was opened on behalf of PhoneDog, not Mr. Kravitz. An added complexity is that PhoneDog contends Mr. Kravitz was just a contractor in the related partnership/employment case, thus weakening their trade secrets case, unless they can show he was contracted to create the feed.”

It's not uncommon for companies to hire bloggers to Tweet about their company and products with the New York Times citing  Samsung as an example.

If it transpires that Mr Kravitz did open the account specifically to blog about Phonedog then he could well lose the case but it will send interesting messages to both companies and members of the public who use Twitter to communicate about companies and their products.

It would also be interesting to see how the US legal system would value one individual Twitter follower in dollar terms.  It could be argued that if the standard online advertising rates apply equally to Twitter, which would seem logical, that $2.50 would mean each follower would have had to have clicked on of the company's links 250 times each month.  This is unlikely and any financial penalty that may be issued against Mr Kravitz could be significantly reduced because of this.

What is your opinion of this?  I tweet and blog all the time about the websites and the publishers I write for and I've never once thought that one of those companies might consider my own followers their own property.  Do you blog or Tweet about your or another company?


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  1. Antihero01 said on September 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I am nobodies property, or financial asset. If I choose to follow someone, it is my choice. No body has the right to set a value based on my choice…if they do I will simply stop following them!!

    Greed is such a disgusting emotion, and we see it writ large in cases such as this!

  2. kalmly said on December 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm


  3. hak01 said on December 28, 2011 at 4:47 am

    this is bullshit!!!

  4. Roman ShaRP said on December 27, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    My opinion is that company lawsuit is crazy.

    If they commissioned the Twitter account job, they may have the account. But account followers are not company property.

  5. BobbyPhoenix said on December 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I think it depends as said in the article. If a company issues, or asks, an employee to open a Twitter account on the company’s behalf then that company should “own” whatever happens to it. Good or bad. If someone decides to act as an individual, and open an account, but link his/her job to it, then that single person should have sole ownership. It could get tricky without a contract. You have trademarks, and such, but I think for the most part the issuing person/company should control/own the content. Just like say a company cell phone. If the company issues it the company owns it. They can control it, and make sure it is only used for work. No personal apps or use for personal stuff. If a person uses their own phone, but uses it for work also (like me) then they can add any personal touches, apps, etc they want.

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