Who Owns Your Peeps -part 2 (see part 1)
The matter of who owns the followers on a social media account is under question in the case of PhoneDog v Noah Kravitz and it is certain to set the tone for how companies do business, or don’t, on social media in the future. We’ve been following this case, since last month where we learned that @phonedog_noah was changed to @noahkravitz, when he left the company in 2010, which led to a lawsuit in July of 2011.
Case of Mistaken Identity-Retention?
One can only wonder what PhoneDog expects to win by suing Mr. K. If their valuation claim of $2.50 per month damages per follower is realized in a judgment or settlement, how do they expect to collect? Their valuation of the Twitter followers puts their expectation to collect in the range of greater than $350,000; a somewhat punitive action against a single employee. Furthermore, we wonder if PhoneDog considered the damage this may do to their ability to recruit new employees to do the same job, as well as the damage it does to their credibility with the disputed followers? We can expect a devaluing of public opinion that will result and our estimation is that this will be greater cost to PhoneDog than their supposed loss of followers.
Strategic Delay or defacto assent?
Many questions come to mind: If PhoneDog attached this valuation to their account at the beginning, why did they not create a succession plan for Noah to surrender the account credentials on or before his last day? We also wonder if they done so, since filing the lawsuit, with their other employees? According to studies, Social Media account followers are largely driven by personality, even when there is a brand attached. So, it seems unlikely that PhoneDog will retain these followers, even if they succeed against Mr. Kravitz in court. Can they win anything by reclaiming the account? That leads us to consider that they don’t actually care about the account.
Tit for Tat?
We wonder further: what is the motivation? According to the New York Times article published on Christmas day, there was a previous lawsuit in play – in which Noah Kravitz claimed losses against PhoneDog, for “15 percent of the site’s gross advertising revenue because of his position as a vested partner, as well as back pay related to his position as a video reviewer and blogger...”. So, what began as a tit for tat battle over back-pay and vesting will undoubtedly shape the way businesses use social media and who owns the followers you build on your account. Bloggers are all watching this case closely, as there will surely be ramifications and ripple effects that impact anyone using social media at any level in their job description for the future.
In our estimation, companies like PhoneDog need better social media policy that defines their expectations and plans for how employees and contractors are intended to use social media for the company. Their biggest mistake was in assigning him to blog and tweet, without a plan for who owned the accounts and what he was to do with the accounts when he left the company. Since no one at PhoneDog took control of his credentials, it seems clear to us that the company had no plan retain the account and that their claim is an after-thought. At Social Gillie we have seen this before, but usually it’s the case that employees leave and the employers contact them much later seeking credentials to accounts that have become dead due to lack of activity, because there was no retention plan in place.
Broad Implications for Everyone
Whoever wins this case, it seems certain that we will all lose something of the freewheeling nature of the social media frontier. We are all certain to have to compensate for the outcome as we build business relationshipsonline. The future of social media relationships will no doubt be impacted.
Contact Social Gillie for guidelines to establishing, growing and retaining your business networks. We specialize in Business Relationship Engineering, a process of achieving business objectives by fostering every business relationship.
Designed by Nik Mouser.