This post has nothing to do with travel, but everything to do with blogging – and this here’s my blog, so what better place to talk about it? Mashable, a brilliant site that talks about many things that confuse me because I am an Internet dilettante, recently weighed in on the idea of sponsored tweets. It seems a company has figured out a way to make this work.
This company is willing to pay people to post, in effect, ads. Some things to keep in mind:
- The tweeter can write the ad in their own words.
- The tweet will have disclosure hashtags (Mom, that’s “#” plus a keyword) that clearly label it as an ad.
- Once contacted about posting, the tweeter has the choice to decline posting that ad.
I filled out the form on their site, because I was curious how much I’d earn if I were to tweet an ad. Turns out it’s a whopping $2.61, plus $0.15 every time someone clicks on the link I presumably include in the tweet. (I can adjust that rate as I wish.)
The Internet firestorm of drama and indignation sponsored tweets have ignited is almost laughable, but upon further reflection is probably valid. The great majority of people say they will unceremoniously “unfollow” people who post sponsored tweets, as they consider it to be spam. Others think it spells the end of Twitter as we know it, as it should be a place free of monetization – a true social media community that is about the exchange of ideas, not sales.
And, to a certain extent I agree. Click on any trending topic in Twitter; among the heartfelt posts about Michael Jackson’s death, the Iran elections and the desire to see the Jonas Brothers perform in Australia, there are spammy ads for Cialis and hot babes who want to talk to YOU. It’s annoying and just plain feels dirty.
I also agree with those who say that it tarnishes the reputation of those who post the sponsored tweets. It would seem to be the equivalent of a paying journalists to write favorable reviews. There are people on my Twitter feed who are serious travel journalists, whose presence implies the acceptance of their not unsubstantial employers. I do not think these people should post sponsored tweets, and given the respect they so clearly have for their profession I’d be surprised if they did.
But I have a few thoughts in support of sponsored tweets, which I’d like to share:
- For every credentialed journalist on Twitter, there are hundreds of thousands of regular, everyday people who use Twitter for other purposes. While they wouldn’t get the big bucks per sponsored tweet – some users with large followings can get up to $150 per post – they might make some lunch money, and I think that’s OK.
- Whether it’s their own blogs, websites that interest them or products and services they love, people promote things all the time on Twitter. It could be argued that everyone who waxes poetic about their new iPhones in 140 characters is promoting Apple. People who acknowledge how much Twitter has made their lives richer are promoting Twitter. Users ask their followers to “retweet,” Digg, StumbleUpon or otherwise promote blog posts all the time. I’ve written the headline to this post in a way that I hope will make people want to click on the link that accompanies it when I post it on Twitter – in effect promoting myself. I receive press releases all the time from companies that hope I’ll pick up the story. If I’m not enthused, I delete it. If I think it’s interesting and something my readers would enjoy, I run with it. Newspapers do this all the time. If a hotel I’ve always wanted to stay at contacted me and offered me $2.61 to say what I would have said for free anyway, especially since I have the right to refuse, what’s the harm? I’m doing it under my own name. I would never do it, for example, for the blogs I am paid to write for. In fact, I’ve spent the last three months debating whether or not to write a glowing review of Skype for one such blog, fearing it might tarnish the reputation of that blog’s brand – and Skype has no idea I even exist, let alone contacted me about writing it.
- I can’t see taking the time to be offended by a sponsored tweet by someone on my list of 345 people I currently follow. Now, that 345 is a relatively small number, considering almost 1,800 people follow me. Many people I know have no trouble following hundreds more, but even with my 345 I could easily do nothing all day but read my Twitter feed. As it is, I and many others I’ve spoken to merely skim the feed for our favorites, and I’ve limited my Twitter time to only about 15-20 minutes per day.
That means I’m missing literally thousands of tweets per day, and passing over dozens every time I log on to check my feed. If someone were to post a sponsored tweet, I could easily miss it – and if I did see one, it would take a fraction of a second to skip over it if it did not interest me, just as I do with other tweets that do not interest me.
With the link and the hash tags, I can’t imagine my personalized input into a sponsored tweet would be more than a few words at most. The tweet would reach less than 1,800 people total, the majority of whom would never see it because of timing and the rest would simply ignore. And I write an average of 11.3 tweets per day, which means I’d be posting at least 10 other solid, original, thoughtful tweets my followers have come to enjoy.
I think it all comes down to context. I’ve chosen to follow the people I do because I have found them to be interesting, honest, sincere people who share my passion for travel. I’d like to believe they would say the same about me. If I saw one of my twits (ha!) had posted a sponsored tweet, it would not make me suddenly disrespect them or mistrust the other quality tweets they post throughout the day. I’ve seen many more egregious, spammy offenses on Twitter in the name of self-promotion, Lord knows.
These companies are not asking to take over your Twitter account. They’re not asking you to go on and on about their products or services. They’re asking to rent a small space for a fleeting moment in time, and could give a fig what you do with Twitter for the remaining 23.59 hours of your day. I don’t think that’s so bad.
What say you?