Yesterday, Sponsored Tweets, a service that aims to pay tweeters to post tweets promoting brands, was launched by Ted Murphy and his team at Izea. Check out the site…it’s different than the other sites that have attempted to provide similar services.
The immediate response was overwhelmingly negative as you can see in the comments on the Mashable post covering the launch.
Ted has been actively responding to people’s concerns, both on the Mashable post and tonight on #journchat, where the issue of sponsored tweets was discussed further. People on Mashable don’t seem to be buying his argument. The general consensus in #journchat was that people were opposed to sponsored tweets, but with shades of grey.
I’m going to try to take a look from both sides…
Here are some of the arguments against sponsored tweets…
- They will ruin your reputation and risk the trust of your followers.
- Regardless of the enforced disclosure, not everyone on twitter will realize that these are sponsored tweets. This is especially an issue with new users to twitter.
- Since it will make you a more attractive candidate, the system will put too much focus on gaining followers.
- They violate the the “values” of twitter (honesty, unbiased conversation, transparency etc…).
- They may cause an increase the level of spam.
Here are some of the counterarguments in support of sponsored tweets…
- If people want to risk their reputation and trust from their followers, that should be their decision.
- Rather than having any company sponsor any tweeter, Sponsored Tweets will let tweeters choose to sponsor the brands and products that they find valuable, and would promote anyway. “ I want less sponsored tweets with higher quality tweeters.” -Ted Murphy
- All tweets through Sponsored Tweets must comply with the ethical standards set forth by the “Disclosure Engine“.
- If you don’t want to see sponsored tweets, there are already tools available that will allow you to automatically block people who post sponsored tweets.
- The tweets are completely customizable, so can promote however they want. They can be paid based on clicks or based on tweets.
- “People act like this is new. It’s not. We r just being open about it. Happens every day w/ big names, you just think it’s organic.” Ted Murphy
- Ted also calls out Mashable on posting “sponsored tweets”. This is an interesting comparison worth considering.
There are many more, but that’s a good deal of it.
The allure of Sponsored Tweets is immediately apparent when you check out the site. They feature celebrity tweeters and prominent web champions who are already using the service and have shared in video or in interviews why they support it. Many people have invested a lot of time into twitter, and not everyone is completely convinced that their time was well spent. The idea of getting a return for their time seems very attractive.
But while a few are showing their support for the service, a great deal have already started to put their foot down, claiming that they’ll unfollow anyone who posts sponsored tweets.
While I respect what Ted is trying to do, I don’t think Sponsored Tweets will work out. I think that because people are claiming “word-of-mouth” is the best way to market, companies would rather pay money to create it quickly, than take the time and effort to build a community that fosters word-of-mouth.
This just isn’t what twitter is about. Twitter created a place where instead of receiving recommendations from just a few friends and family, you can tap into vast networks of people who have been in your position, and are willing to offer their advice. When companies try to force themselves into that conversation, it loses its value.
If we wanted to see a message that a company pays to put in front of us, we’ll watch a commercial. We look to our friends and relationships to offer advice, and trust them because the brand isn’t present.
Force the brand into the conversation, and the conversation will just move again…
I’m trying to keep an open mind. What are your thoughts?