Here's an interesting question: In the world of social media, how important is identity? For example, if someone "friends" someone else, does it really matter who the friendee is?
Well, we might be getting a bit of an answer to this question. That's because Rocketboom creator Andrew Baron has announced he's selling his Twitter account--which includes more than 1,500 "followers"--on eBay. And as of Sunday morning, the auction had already gone up to $560.
"I really love my Twitter account but I feel like I haven't been using it the way I want to," writes Baron in the eBay auction description. "Quite honestly, I feel sorry for all of my followers because they wind up with my tweets in their timelines and I haven't been able to utilize the medium the way I want to. I also participate in another Twitter account over on Rocketboom so I'm thinking I'll post more over there and start up a new account to do what I want to do next.
"It would be silly to just delete this account I have here, especially if there is someone out there that had like interests and had something to say or wanted to get involved in some relevant conversations. In terms of monetary value, I have no expectations or needs at all so I decided not to put a minimum bid on this. Whatever will be, will be....The winner of this auction gets my account with all of my followers."
One thing he points out is that Twitter allows users to change their account name so that whoever ends up buying his account can alter the ID but still retain the 1,500-plus followers.
"So basically it's like getting a new account with your own name," he wrote, "but having a pre-installed audience."
Another interesting element to this saga is that he's actually attracted a fair number of new followers since he put the account up for sale on eBay. At that time, he said in his auction description, the account had 1,397 followers. And now it's over 1,500.
On the other hand, he acknowledged that his followers are following him.
"Also, as with any dynamic group, there is obviously risk," he wrote. "My followers could jump ship at anytime. There is no guarantee on this part. People will come and go, that's just the way it is."
This is definitely the key point. It's true that he has attracted a rather large audience of followers on Twitter--though, according to Twitterholic, a site that tracks the most followed Twitter accounts, he's not in the top 100 accounts--but those people are interested in him and what he has to say.
Yet, the fact that the auction has already fetched $560 is noteworthy. People seem to want those followers, and it will be interesting to see what happens when the auction ends and the transfer occurs.
But in the meantime, as the auction proceeds--it doesn't end until April 22--Baron is offering two-day guest hosting spots on his Twitter account for sale on Craigslist for $150.
"Are you really creative and feel as though you have a lot to offer online culture? Are you interested in online video, social networks, blogging, technology, art and design? If so, this could be a great chance to take a stage and say something," he writes on the New York Craigslist site.
"I'm selling a 2-day guest host spot on my Twitter account to someone who meets just the right profile. I'm looking for someone that my colleagues, friends and others will benefit from in a culturally and socially valuable way. Maybe you have some great videos or a great album of music, or have a story you want to tell. Maybe there is a great cause that you want to spread. Maybe you even have a great product that needs improvement and would like to leverage a great brain trust of interested and capable people."
This is very odd. In some ways, this is more interesting, and at the same time, more cynical. Guest-hosting blogs, of course, is a well-known sport, but selling the slots? And at the same time as the account is up for complete sale?
Well, for someone like Baron, who is sometimes adept at publicity, this is quite the attempt to get some. And of course, here I am helping him.
For me, however, this isn't about Baron at all. It's about the nature of identity and the question of how valuable identity is and whether people in social networks are really willing to be sold like customers of a product being hawked to another company. My guess is that, on the surface, they're not.
But I also am willing to bet that Baron's Twitter followers will give the buyer a brief honeymoon to establish whether he or she has something valuable to say. If so, they may stick around. If not, it'll be sayonara, and too bad you spent those Benjamins to buy the account. Stay tuned.