Apr 16 2010

noise + confusion = turn off?

Promoted tweets, advertisements, spam – whichever term you use to describe paid content placement, it amounts to the same thing. You no longer can take for granted that thoughts or observations posted on twitter and other popular social networking sites are original and/or authentic. Isn’t this contrary to the premise of social networking?

I’m not sure about you, but my initial attraction to twitter was the idea that I could catch bits of information about the status of friends, relatives, co-workers, peers, students, mentors. Here, they were sharing glimpses of themselves, their families, and their work when asked the simple question: what are you doing?  

 That question soon changed to “what’s happening?” and media, politicians, and marketers joined the party. Don’t get me wrong, I love updates from the local and national media outlets I follow, and twitter is a great way to track politicians, legislation and contentious issues. But while I’m a marketer myself, I think many of them have gone too far. It pretty obvious who’s online primarily to sell. Now with paid (promotional) opportunities available on twitter, the marketing people are unleashed, and users are reporting confusion (see related Mashable article here). It’s a shame but I suppose it is similar to the natural progression of nearly everything that must be “monetized.”   

It is somewhat surprising to me, though, that twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams didn’t think of something a little more inventive to raise funding—something more in line with the original brainchild. There are roughly 105 million registered twitter users. How many of them do you think would pay a small amount to keep the site free of paid tweets and advertisements? Then again, a business model that promises big advertisers would fair better on Wall Street.

In any event, take a look at “Promoting for dollars is new Twitter app” from Jessica Guynn at the LA Times. Paid tweets have been going on a lot longer than you might think.

Yes, twitter is a pop culture phenomenon. Yes, it’s cool. But at what point do you think people will tire of the noise and confusion, if at all?