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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