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?

Mar 2 2010

Pepsi: A bad social media day at the office


The Pepsi Refresh Project is a good study in social media campaigns. Pepsi has had multiple communication issues and technical difficulties. As a result, the company has received bad press from a wide range of news and information sources–from Tech Crunch to The New York Times.

Tech Crunch headlines Pepsi’s campaign as “Social Media Gone Awry.” The New York Times says, “Pepsi Charity Contest Trips Over Its Own Submission Rules.”

Why, if you’re a company the size of Pepsi, with the best possible resources at your feet, would you fumble like this? Common sense (and several failed/bad social media campaigns) tells us that the last place you want to mess up is among a bunch of social media enthusiasts who, by the way, are also consumers. Extremely vocal consumers.

Besides the communication issues and technical problems, I am suspect of the number of people who post comments saying, “Pepsi is the best soft drink ever” and “I love Pepsi.” This one is good: “I’m drinking Pepsi right now. I love it!”

Anyway, I have personally been involved in the Pepsi Refresh campaign. I have been working with the Boise Public Schools Foundation and a BSU PR student to vie for a grant for Boise public schools. Our idea is called “Refresh Boise Public Schools.” We submitted it on Feb. 1 for voting in March. But we found out yesterday that the submission had not been accepted. Pepsi said we would know one way or the other two weeks after submission. Then it became 3 weeks. Then it became Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. We weren’t notified until March 1 at 3 p.m. By that time, it was too late to resubmit our application for the next round of voting! Worse yet, we aren’t able to access our application to make modifications. So, we’ll have to start over. Other people have had similar problems. And, several are complaining about celebrities being able to vie for the grants, etc. Go to the Pepsi Refresh Facebook fan page and you’ll see what I’m talking about/can make your own assessment.

I expect we’ll hear more about this-through every medium imaginable. Time to pay attention, Pepsi, or the bad day you’ve had could turn into a year.