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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

They’re OUR Followers and You Can’t Take ‘Em


An online mobile news and reviews resource, PhoneDog, has filed a lawsuit against a former employee whom they claim absconded with 17,000 Twitter followers in its data base.  What’s interesting is that the company is viewing the taking of names and a Twitter password as a trade secret or company intellectual property.  We also see the issue as similar to one that plays out in other media:  whether the tweets were a work for hire or does the tweeter have the right to contact those that he responded to? 

This lawsuit has other interesting aspects:
  1. PhoneDog is suing for $340,000 in damages.  It got to that number by multiplying the number of followers by $2.50 – a figure that the company claims as an “industry standard.”  Others view twitter followers as worth barely 1 cent per follower.
  2. PhoneDog apparently allowed the tweeter to have access to the company account and password.  When he left, he merely changed the name of the account so that the @phonedog followers now came to his personal account.
  3.  Is the fact that his hand was @phonedog_employeename make it any different than a writer who has a byline saying that the magazine mailing list is his/her personal property.

As social media continues to evolve and becomes a growing marketing tool for all industries, it is important to have a set of guidelines for company property and how social media is used. A company’s best defense against losing critical data is to have protocols in place.  At CommCore, we work with our clients to develop specific policies regarding crisis, security and social media. Here are some suggestions:
  • Posts should be monitored by a second or even a third person to ensure the messages are in line with the company image.
  • Passwords should not be in the hands of only one person.
  • Limit social media admin privileges to senior staff.
  • Make it clear in employee contracts what is expected of them regarding organizational social media accounts when they are employed by you, and also when the working relationship ends.

What do you know or think a Twitter follower is worth?

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