Is there any real monetary value in a social networking account?

By Mark O’Neill

I am closely monitoring an online conversation today over a Twitter user’s decision to sell his account on eBay.   This has raised the following questions – is a Twitter account worth anything financially?   Is the guy betraying his “followers” by selling their loyalties and direct private messages to someone else?   Thirdly, is he scamming the successful eBay buyer by selling them an account that may ultimately prove to be worthless?

More to the point, is there any value at all in a social networking account – period? What about a Facebook account?   A Stumbleupon account?   A Digg account?   Is there such as a thing as “social network account squatting”?    Set up an account, build up lots of nice contacts then sell it for a profit?

To be sure, this isn’t the first time someone has tried to sell online accounts for a profit.   World of Warcraft accounts have been sold on eBay, and my girlfriend’s brother, who is highly active on Dark Age of Camelot, has seen high level accounts being sold for ridiculous prices on eBay.   I have also seen people trying to hawk Stumbleupon and Digg accounts online for a few hundred dollars.   I’ve even had direct sales pitches via instant messaging.

But I have never been able to get a satisfactory answer to my question – what REAL value is there to these accounts when the members or followers realize the account has been sold on?    For example, If I bought Mr BabyMan’s Digg account tomorrow and everyone realized I wasn’t Mr BabyMan, what value would that account then have?    Probably not very much.

As someone pointed out to me today, if it was a Facebook account with valuable contacts in it (phone numbers, email addresses, etc), that’s a whole different ballgame.   But a Twitter account?   Now that word is out that the Twitter account is being sold, that account will be toast and the followers will drop off like flies.  If you were following that account, how would you feel being bartered and sold like a commodity?

I’d be extremely interested to hear your opinions on this one.   Is there such a thing as “social network account squatting”?    Is what Andrew Baron doing a bit on the low side or does he have the right to do what he wants?   Readers, it’s over to you.

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13 Responses to Is there any real monetary value in a social networking account?

  1. There's no value in social networking accounts. If people know that you are not the person who previously owned the account, then the account's identity changes in a way and all of the things you wanted to benefit from that were a part of it no longer are. It's essentially like buying someone's identity and I don't really see people being so stupid as to not recognize a shift in ownership. However, on the chance that they did, it ends up being pretty pathetic of the person for trying to live as something he isn't. I can understand game accounts and stuff, but buying contact information, reddit karma, etc.? It's a little stupid and, in the case of the transfer of sensitive information (PMs, etc.), possibly illegal. Alas, the Internet is serious business.

  2. There’s no value in social networking accounts. If people know that you are not the person who previously owned the account, then the account’s identity changes in a way and all of the things you wanted to benefit from that were a part of it no longer are. It’s essentially like buying someone’s identity and I don’t really see people being so stupid as to not recognize a shift in ownership. However, on the chance that they did, it ends up being pretty pathetic of the person for trying to live as something he isn’t. I can understand game accounts and stuff, but buying contact information, reddit karma, etc.? It’s a little stupid and, in the case of the transfer of sensitive information (PMs, etc.), possibly illegal. Alas, the Internet is serious business.

  3. This looks to me like an individual trying to cash in on what a lot of companies have done (and gotten rightly chastised for doing) – he/she has collected a lot of people in their Twitter network and is trying to sell them to a marketer.

    I predict Epic Fail.

  4. This looks to me like an individual trying to cash in on what a lot of companies have done (and gotten rightly chastised for doing) – he/she has collected a lot of people in their Twitter network and is trying to sell them to a marketer.

    I predict Epic Fail.

  5. Social Networking accounts do have a monietary value. The more post the more credible. People feel they get a sense of who you are each time you post. Writing is still a great form of expression. For someone to take over the post count of another person is huge because you also take on the responsiblities and credibility of that persons account

  6. Social Networking accounts do have a monietary value. The more post the more credible. People feel they get a sense of who you are each time you post. Writing is still a great form of expression. For someone to take over the post count of another person is huge because you also take on the responsiblities and credibility of that persons account

  7. I think this is ridiculous and should not be allowed by Ebay. It's one thing to sell a website or company but to sell an identity is just wrong. I would flag his auction if it hasn't been done already.

  8. I think this is ridiculous and should not be allowed by Ebay. It’s one thing to sell a website or company but to sell an identity is just wrong. I would flag his auction if it hasn’t been done already.

  9. There may not be value for all accounts, but for certain user names there might be. I would have loved to be able to secure my name, @nathania, especially since no one has updated it in a year. I may have been willing to shell out, say, $25 for it.

    And depending on how Google indexes any of this, it might be worth securing keywords.

    But I wouldn't pay for the followers. Just like buying a blog, you can't expect people to stick around. If you're going to buy, buy for other reasons.

  10. There may not be value for all accounts, but for certain user names there might be. I would have loved to be able to secure my name, @nathania, especially since no one has updated it in a year. I may have been willing to shell out, say, $25 for it.

    And depending on how Google indexes any of this, it might be worth securing keywords.

    But I wouldn’t pay for the followers. Just like buying a blog, you can’t expect people to stick around. If you’re going to buy, buy for other reasons.

  11. I think even a year ago the idea of selling a blog would have seemed insane, largely for the same reasons outlined in this article. Many have, however, and I think the Twitter sale, while a bit of a novelty at the moment, was in some respects an inevitability. Obviously if a spammer buys the account he's not going to get any value as everybody will leave in droves. However, much like on certain blogs (like, BloggingExperiment, for example), if the 'new guy' adds his own take or value then people can (and will) stick around.

    You'll lose some fans, sure, but much like what Andrew Baron has experienced, you'll gain some, too, certainly when during the auction itself.

    He appears to having second-thoughts about all of this and I wonder if he'll go through with it, especially as many of his high bidders seem to be of the somewhat dubious zero feedback variety, but I for one hope he does as the ramifications are interesting, not only for this one example but the industry itself.

    There's obviously value in an audience, certainly a tailor-made one, but if the buyer can't keep that audience, or get something out of them fairly quickly, then I'd agree it's quite daft.

  12. I think even a year ago the idea of selling a blog would have seemed insane, largely for the same reasons outlined in this article. Many have, however, and I think the Twitter sale, while a bit of a novelty at the moment, was in some respects an inevitability. Obviously if a spammer buys the account he’s not going to get any value as everybody will leave in droves. However, much like on certain blogs (like, BloggingExperiment, for example), if the ‘new guy’ adds his own take or value then people can (and will) stick around.

    You’ll lose some fans, sure, but much like what Andrew Baron has experienced, you’ll gain some, too, certainly when during the auction itself.

    He appears to having second-thoughts about all of this and I wonder if he’ll go through with it, especially as many of his high bidders seem to be of the somewhat dubious zero feedback variety, but I for one hope he does as the ramifications are interesting, not only for this one example but the industry itself.

    There’s obviously value in an audience, certainly a tailor-made one, but if the buyer can’t keep that audience, or get something out of them fairly quickly, then I’d agree it’s quite daft.

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