Taking Twitter Followers With You When You Leave

breaking ropeSome would argue that @MayorofLondon seems to pretty clearly represent the Twitter stream of the Mayor of London, regardless of who that person is. Others may disagree with this statement – like Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London, who changed the name of the account to @BorisJohnson on day one of the mayoral election campaign, taking 200k+ Twitter followers with him. He has since changed it back, but it raises an interesting question and one we’ll see more often: who owns your Twitter account?

Imagine you’ve busted your butt and amassed a significant Twitter following, and then you switch jobs and your employer sues. Ouch. If you have a personal twitter account using your own name and focusing on not only work but your own interests, you should be okay (for now at least!), but what if you’ve been tweeting under an employer-attached handle, like @PhoneDog_Noah? Well, then you may spend a lot of time and money defending yourself! Granted, lots of readers say they read Noah’s tweets because they liked or respected Noah and that feeling wouldn’t necessarily (and more importantly – shouldn’t necessarily) transfer to a new person using that account, but using an employer-named account, as Noah did, leaves a gray area, unfortunately.

But back to Boris. Are all tweets from the @MayorofLondon account posted by Boris personally or does his staff ghost-tweet for him? And does it matter? We should start answering these questions now because they aren’t going away. Is there any sort of win-win solution out there?

As of this writing, Boris’ new personal account @BackBoris2012 has 4,000+ followers. I guess we’ll get to see if his campaign’s claim that it was “Johnson’s brand that had attracted the followers to the account in the first place” rings true. And we’ll see if this ill-advised switcheroo has long-term ramifications for the rest of us!

(Breaking rope image from Shutterstock)