Twitter Ho – Sponsored Tweets vs. Self-Branding in Social Media

August 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm (advertising, Branding, economy, marketing, networking, social media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

twitter_pimp_illustrationA recent tweet from @pbarbanes put forth the question “Have you heard of “sponsored tweets”? If so, any thoughts or feelings?” This simple question opened into a discussion among the South Florida tweeting community about how sponsorship affects social media.

Social media generates societal systems as overlapping and diverse as any other form of community. Social interaction is built on a few things, I believe trust and interesting dialogue rank among two of the highest. We follow, friend, connect, and link to who can provide us attention-grabbing worthwhile content from sources that we can trust, much like we engage in face-to-face conversation with people that interest and entertain us.

What happens when a relationship is based on a monetary transaction? To paraphrase a line from American Pimp, “pimp’n & ho’n is the world’s oldest profession.” So why not have prostitution in social networking, it’s part of every culture? Instead of waxing poetic about how sponsored tweets are like prostitutes, just read The Branding Professor’s posts about it…I pretty much feel the same way. In response to the subject of selling your avatar and username to the highest bidder @ctiedje had this to say, “Money corrupts. Influences opinions. As soon as paid ads take over a social media space – it begins to die. (i.e. MySpace)” I’ll even admit to trying to put ads on Facebook to sell my t-shirt designs. Turns out I would have had better ROI by putting $100 worth of singles into a cash cube and grabbing for them as they blew by.

The sponsored tweets discussion presents an interesting dichotomy between social media used exclusively for capital gain and social media as a corporate branding tool. Many of the people I follow and connect with, myself included, use social media for self-branding. However, intermixed with our self-branding message we try to add to the user experience with interesting links that may, or may not, directly relate to our brand. People follow us because they find us interesting, and enjoy our conversation, company, and content. Just as in real life, if followers don’t enjoy your online persona they will stop following you. For me nothing expedites this process faster than someone who only pimps their product, or someone else’s, while not adding credible information to the conversation – e.g. I recently unfollowed someone who would tweet twice a day “read our blog and follow us on twitter.” Now why would you put “follow us on twitter” on twitter? I already am following you on twitter, or at least was interested enough to look at your page – until I saw that you are adding nothing to the communal melting pot of quality information except for bot-like commands that order me to look at a blog you have supplied me no information about.

We’ll have to see how people react as sponsored tweets and advertising status updates gain a stronger foothold on our beloved social media sites. Will people stop following users due to them abusing our valuable time with more advertisements, or will they let them fade into the shuffle like billboards on the highway?

Just remember, my dear subsidized tweeters:

you don’t have to put on the red light
those days are over
you don’t have to sell you tweets to the night

you don’t have to sponsor that brand tonight
text the tweets for money
you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right

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