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We Don't Really Pay Them To Tweet All Day, Do We?

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That's what the CEO of a $50M dollar company recently asked his VP of Marketing. "Because if we do we're wasting time and money." Unbelievable, I know.

Here we are at the dawn of 2012 and we seem to be facing an ever-widening knowledge gap in the workplace around the value of social business. Heavy sigh.

I remain passionate about educating the boardroom on the power of real-time social tools and we clearly have a long way to go. I'm hoping 2012 is the tipping point year and we can move in to serious strategic discussions about implementing social business company-wide.

The good news is that social media analytics are getting better, faster, and cheaper all the time. And the amount of data available to companies today about their customers, partners, stakeholders, and competitors has never been greater. That should add up to business intelligence investments.

But the bigger picture is that we're all grappling with how to quantify the value of social media assets. What's a Facebook Like, or a LinkedIn subscriber, or a Twitter follower worth anyway? And who owns those assets? The platform? The brand? The employee?

So far, social media policies are inconsistent about identifying ownership, primarily because most social media hasn't been really taken seriously by senior management.

Until now. That may be about to change. The New York Times reports on a very interesting lawsuit
that has been filed by PhoneDog against a former employee who tweeted on behalf of the company and kept his followers when he left. Now the company is claiming the Twitter list is actually a customer list and is seeking damages of $2.50 a month per follower for eight months, for a total of $340,000.

My questions: 1)Twitter followers is a 'customer list'? and 2) Is the valuation of the follower at $2.50 per month per follower fairly accurate?

It's true that business owners are typically concerned about protecting their brand, name, territory, affiliations, employees, customer lists, technology, amongst a host of other items that may give them a competitive advantage in their industry. But Twitter followers don't fall in to this category. A Twitter Follower list is a public list, available to anyone. Correct?

Secondly, let's keep a keen eye on the $2.50 per month per follower metric. While the court will decide who 'owns' the followers, will the $2.50/follower price tag hold up? Will it set a precedent for establishing other asset values on subscribers, likes, retweets, and more?

These outcomes and definitions could be a great way to start 2012 and finally get serious attention from the boardroom.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, LLC and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Email her at beverlymacy@gmail.com