Should We Auction Off Our Twitter Allegiance?

As @VikingPlastics (a “global supplier of engineered sealing solutions” in Corry, Pa.) correctly notes, @freakonomics has a lot of followers but we do not follow anyone. In fact, we made a podcast about this. We briefly followed Marketplace‘s Kai Ryssdal, but have returned to our anti-social ways.

So Viking has made us a cash offer to follow it:

They have been upping their bid incrementally:

While $9 isn’t too bad, I am wondering if we should perhaps auction off the rights to be an exclusive follower, with the proceeds going to charity (and at least $9 to Viking Plastics for giving us the idea)? Anybody interested in running this auction for us?


$15 to follow @novationmobile : ), and we don't even tweet.

slug |

Oooh but what kind of auction to have???


You know, I dont think I've ever seen a definite answer given to that-- Sealed bidding? Timed? Time extended after every bid?

Actually, I guess reverse engineering the scam websites probably means that charging everyone a small amount (say, 50cents) for each bid (successful or not) is the best way.

Dave Diamond

It's funny that you mention your non-following. I was on Twitter earlier today and in their "Who to follow" section -- I know, it should be "whom" but I'm just reporting the facts -- they told me I should follow so-and-so because they are ::drum roll:: "followed by freakonomics"

So in spite of the fact that you aren't following anybody (which I double-checked), Twitter is promoting somebody else based on the notion that you are!

It's still on my screen if you want to fly up to NH and see -- or I could send you a screen capture, but I can't promise you a small bag of airline peanuts.


That is a great idea! I can think of a number of great charities. Would the winner get to pick?

I can help you run the auction.

Daniel G

9 bucks? Viking Plastics just got a whole lot more than $9 worth of publicity in this blog post.


I am Presenting at @angelhack as a FINALIST next week. Give me a chance to auction it to the major "dot commies" who will be attending.


Have you read what happened when Conan O'Brien (comedian) followed one random girl. Really funny the instant fame it created for her:


I'll give you $8


Maybe follow them for an hour or something for $9.79?


So many possibilities. How about if you offer to follow 100 companies and use a reverse auction similar to the way treasury bill rates are set

Ben Graham

If it's for charity I'm sure I can offer $1,000. I'm not a big Klout follower but I would guess your follow would boost Klout substantially (assuming it used a PageRank-like algorithm). Just for that I imagine it's worth at least a grand to an individual, more to a brand. Then there could be some news notice coming out of it, as a plus.

Impossibly Stupid

You could do double-duty by following the rules of a dollar auction, thereby both teaching a lesson in economics and increasing the monetary contribution. I've already written an iPhone app that does that, so feel free to contact me if you're interested in that sort of thing as a starting point.

Tim McCollough

Don't do it.

@VikingPlastics already got a nice publicity bump from his cleverness. Let's end it there.

Having markets for everything is not a road to a place we want to be. But, if you want an economic rationale, here goes: you made a big deal of having zero followers, so in auctioning off your first follower, you would incur a cost of loss of credibility and principles. I mean, what if the auction winner is @LegalizedAbortionDIDNTDecreaseCrime ??

Stay strong, Dubner. Stay strong.


PS Counter the current view, giving proceeds to charity isn't an end-all justification.

Sean Kennedy

I will run your auction for you. Should we bid on that privilege? How is $8.99?

A simple eBay auction would be fine in my mind. Good way to get the price up too.


I set up a campaign to help you figure out if people will actually pay: It will be interesting to see the results and could be a huge score for charity!


This is how a big idea starts I believe the Viking Plastic had already made their advertising, and I believe this idea will be really will expand...

Jason kernan

Looks like viking plastics have a clever marketing dept, cause if u ask me they have managed to get a lot more than $9 worth of free publicity from there request.

Andrew (from Flippa)

Hi Stephen.
We'd be happy to run this auction for you on but it may require you to auction off your website too! ;-)