5 Creative Ways to Use Sponsored Tweets

sponsoredtweetsBack when Sponsored Tweets launched, I wrote a post asking if it will survive.  (Disclaimer: Ted has since given me credit to test the service, which I wrote about here.)

I continue to think about the service and it’s possible value.  If done right, I really like sponsored tweets.  The goal isn’t always to manipulate the follower into finding value in a product…Sponsored tweets simply allow you to tap in to a community that you don’t currently have access to.

And it’s not always ads.  The message they choose to send can be a number of things. Here are some different ways that businesses can use sponsored tweets.

  1. Market Research. Want to know a community’s thoughts and opinions?   The answers you get will be more quality than a mass snail mail campaign, and it’s probably cheaper too.
  2. Contests.  If you want to start a contest for a specific community, you need to be able to reach the people in that community.  Sponsoring a tweet can be a great way to give away prizes.  It involves no “opinion” from the tweeter so their followers probably won’t be too offended.
  3. Crowdsource ideas. Pull in ideas by sponsoring tweets in different communities and asking for feedback. For example, a company wants to launch a new diaper product, and wants to gather ideas from mothers.  If you aren’t tapped into the “mom-blog” community on twitter, good luck finding answers there. Sponsor a tweet from a prominent “mom-twitterer” to ask questions for you.
  4. Collect donations for a cause. Most tweeters probably won’t even ask for money, assuming you have a worthy cause and you approach them respectfully.  Either way, you can reach a larger audience to get your charity off the ground.
  5. Sponsor a Q&A Expert Session. Say you have a site for bloggers.  Sponsor a Q&A session on twitter with Darren Rowse where he can answer questions from new bloggers directly.  Add your hashtag to the tweets, promote the event with your site.

See a re-occuring theme?  Again, sponsored tweets simply allows you to tap into communities that you don’t currently have access to.  Sure, if you’re trying to engage with the community, sponsored tweets aren’t the best method.

Not all tweets are meant for participating in conversation and building a community.

You can sign up to try out Sponsored Tweets here. (affiliate referral link)

What are some other creative ways to use sponsored tweets?

Will Increased Government Regulation Ruin Blogging?

Photo cred: Tuffer
Photo cred: Tuffer

I recently read this article about the Vogue model Liskula Cohen model suing the anonymous blogger (and winning).  There have also been talks of the FTC implementing disclosure regulations to ensure that “sponsored” content is always disclosed.  Seems that blogging may be coming under the legal spotlight.

How will increased legal regulation affect the blogosphere?

Well…it could have a positive impact:

  1. More responsible blogging. With no one to answer to, bloggers have been able to write anything and everything, whether or not it hurts others.  With a legal regulation in place, bloggers will be forced to blog responsibly.
  2. More respect for bloggers. With more responsible bloggers comes more respect for the blogosphere.  Blogs are increasingly becoming a go-to resource for news and information.  Respect will only catalyze this trend.
  3. Less noise. More restrictions usually means less content.  Legal regulations would eliminate a lot useless or repetitive content.

It could also have a negative impact:

  1. Less freedom. The beauty of blogging is the freedom it allows.  All someone has to do is set up a blog, and speak their mind to the masses.  Regulation would put a boundary on this freedom.
  2. Fear of punishment. Like any other law, the vast majority of people won’t actually read it in detail, but just understand the concept.  This means that a lot of people might not understand clearly, what they can or cannot say.  If bloggers are afraid to write for fear of being sued or punished, they may just not write at all.
  3. Removing a source of income. Regardless of whether or not people like sponsored blog posts, it has proven to be an effective source of income for many bloggers.  Enforcing disclosure may hurt the sponsored blogging market.

There are also a number of issues with these kinds of regulations:

  1. Enforcement. Pretty much impossible, without the investment of a great deal of money (more than should be spent on this issue).  It would have to rely on people reporting violations, and I’m not even going to get into how messy that can get.
  2. Grey areas. If someone reposts sponsored content without disclosing, are they also liable?  What if they repost content ruled as libel, can they also be sued?  It will be really hard to justifiably determine a line within these kinds of grey areas.

To this point the blogosphere has been largely self-policed.  While this has allowed for a very free and open platform, there is no official and effective system in place to ensure that the content is abiding by moral and legal standards.

Will government intervention impact blogging negatively or positively?  Are there better alternatives?  Share your thoughts.

I Used Sponsored Tweets!

I know I know…OFF WITH HIS HEAD!  But wait, read, you might learn something.

NOTE: I AM TESTING THIS AS AN ADVERTISER PAYING TWEETERS TO SHARE MY MESSAGE, NOT AS A PAID TWEETER. This was confusing for some people.  I have not posted any sponsored tweets, I’ve just sponsored tweets with the credits Ted gave me.

When Ted Murphy offered me some “credits” to trial the site, I was actually very excited after the great conversation we had on my post “Will Sponsored Tweets Survive?” opened my eyes a bit and made me really wonder, will this thing work?

The moral implications of a service like this are still unsettling for many, but I’m more concerned with whether or not it will work, because that will determine whether or not it sticks around.

SO…I signed up and had $100 in credit to mess around with.

First thing you do is “create an opp” and so I created this…

Spostwts step 1Notice…you can click the box over the instructions which means that YOU will choose what the tweet will say.  I can see a lot of people having a problem with this.

Next, I had to fill this out…

spns twts step 2

Which did pretty much nothing, since there aren’t enough “tweeters” using the site yet, so no one fit my criteria, and I had to choose from “premium” tweeters.  I’m sure this will get better as more tweeters sign up.  In the “targeting” step I got to choose what audience I’m looking to reach.

I was then brought to this page where I could check off the people to whom I’d like to make an offer, which looked like this…

Picture 10Sponsored Tweeters

I chose a few people (the only ones I could afford…notice most are well above $100/tweet!) and sent out 5 offers.

Within minutes I had an offer, then over the next day or so I received two more, and the other two declined.  I am then shown the proposed tweet, and can approve it, deny it, or request an edit.  I didn’t request an edit on any of the tweets…I just approved them since we are here to learn and I wanted to see how well they’ll work.

Here are the tweets: YoungMommy(Worst) OhGizmo(Better) Magical_Trevor(Best)

And here are the results… spns twts results

There were 0 retweets, one (angry) comment, and 0 twitter conversations started. This is probably because of who tweeted out the message.  I would have chosen a better audience, but I could only choose from the “premium tweeters” and none of the ones I could afford really fit my target audience.  Still, this could be indicative of the actual value of a sponsored tweet.  It got me some hits, but nothing of any real value.

Note, I didn’t try to force my message anywhere, and I didn’t tell the tweeter what to say, I just told them to post their opinion of my blog, which gave it more eyes from an audience that I did not have access to in a manner that wouldn’t seem intrusive. My offer required that the person actually reads my blog first, so that they can develop an opinion.

You can still find bias results in this method though, as if there was a response that was overly negative, I probably wouldn’t have approved it, and so you’re only getting to see the more positive results.

So what do you think?  Do you see a legitimate use for Sponsored Tweets that won’t upset people?  Do you see the system working?  If you had a chance to test the site, how would you use it?

Will Sponsored Tweets Survive?

SponsoredtweetsYesterday, 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.

My thoughts…

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?