What’s a Twitter follower worth?

In the short run, definitely something.

The mobile phone reviews site PhoneDog, which accused a former staffer of stealing its 17,000 Twitter followers and sought compensation of $2.50 per follower, has apparently settled its lawsuit, CNET reported Monday.

That means the world will have to wait a while longer to learn how much the court thinks a Twitter follower is worth.

One quick and easy response, of course, is that your number of followers is worth little or nothing. If you’re tweeting something compelling, people will find it -- perhaps through retweets. If you’re not, well then your followers wouldn’t care anyway.

This is probably true in the long term. But in the short term -- where most businesses operate -- more followers means marginally more people will have their eyes on your coupon or your quip or your news story. And that can translate into revenue.

And this is taking into account the chaotic nature of information sharing on Twitter where the people you follow and the people whose posts you see is rarely a one-to-one relationship.

There are several publications I read occasionally that I reach almost exclusively through Twitter. If suddenly no one I knew on the social networking site was following them, I’d likely miss several articles I otherwise would have read. In the aggregate, those lost clicks translate to lower traffic, lower ad prices and less money in the bank.

Perhaps the best lesson from the settled PhoneDog case was drawn by accused follower filcher Noah Kravitz, who built PhoneDog up from zero followers when he started with the company to the 17,000 in dispute by the time he departed. Kravitz kept the PhoneDog account and its followers but changed his handle to @NoahKravitz.

"If anything good has come of this," Kravitz wrote in a statement quoted by CNET, "I hope it's that other employees and employers out there can recognize the importance of social media to companies and individuals both. Good contracts and specific work agreements are important, and the responsibility for constructing them lies with both parties. Work it out ahead of time so you can focus on doing good work together -- that's the most important thing."