Might Sponsored Tweets Actually Be…(Gulp!) Okay?!
When I read the headline "Sponsored Tweets Launches: The End of Twitter As We Know It?", I fully expected to read the article, say "yep, bad idea that will surely fail", and go on with my day.
Turns out it's an interesting idea. It might still fail -- definitely an uphill battle ahead.
I'm sure there'll be Twitterers ready and willing to turn their accounts into open relays for anybody and everybody who wants to spam through them. But unlike email, unsubscribe is deadly effective on Twitter. Their followers will melt away like the dew, and with it their revenue stream.
Of course, the spammer types will be using techniques like mass following to troll for followers to build new lists. But if, as I predicted yesterday, reciprocal following becomes uncommon soon, that'll get a lot harder to pull off. And it'll get a lot easier for Twitter to weed out and close spammy accounts.
Plus, Sponsored Tweets enables advertisers to select Twitterers with aged accounts, so spammers would have to keep building big lists far in advance.
Sponsored Tweets requires disclosure in all ads. The funny thing is, I think this is both why it could work, and why it might fail (or at least take a long hard road to succeed).
On the one hand, transparency could lead to a degree of acceptance, like how some people trust affiliate recommendations blogs and email, as long as the publisher has earned their trust in the past.
On the other hand, many people never trust affiliate recommendations from anybody, no matter how much they trust the person otherwise and no matter how transparent they are.
I expect it'll be even more difficult to gain trust for incentivised tweets than incentivised emails and blog posts, because 140 characters simply isn't enough room to a) talk about the product, b) disclose the incentivised nature of the message, c) link to the product and d) assure your audience that you really, honestly think it's worth buying, otherwise you wouldn't have recommended it just for the money.
Early adopters will need an incredible level of trust from their followers to avoid mass unfollows when they start paid tweeting. They'll also face an ongoing struggle to convince their followers that their recommendations are genuine. Unscrupulous paid tweeters will deservedly lose their followings.
I don't see anything inherently wrong with being paid to help connect consumers with worthy products, but I don't know whether it will ever be possible to overcome the hurdles sponsored tweets face 140 characters at a time.