A number of people have asked me recently what I think about running advertising in Twitter streams.
Should it be done or avoided? What impact might it have on you as a Twitter user if you do run them? Are there times you should and shouldn’t use ads to monetize your Twitter account?
My opinion is pretty simple. I know no everyone will agree but it’s probably somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of opinions on the topic. Some argue that Ads should never be used on Twitter – others argue that you should monetize your account in any way you can.
My Opinion on Ads on Twitter:
I have nothing against it in principle. I see no reason why someone investing time, creativity, energy and brain power into becoming an influence in this medium shouldn’t be able to receive financial reward for doing so.
People on Twitter who genuinely grow their audience big enough to attract advertisers are usually doing something useful. Whether it be entertaining, informing, educating, empowering etc – I see people using other mediums making money for doing this type of thing, why not on Twitter?
I make a living from my blogs (about half my income from them is from advertising) and while Twitter is a unique medium in some ways I don’t have issue with it being monetized if done well. Interestingly it was 5 or so years ago that the big debate was about whether blogs should be monetized – many of the same arguments were going back and forth at that time – just replace ‘Blog’ with ‘Twitter Account’ and you’ll from some of those old articles to see where the debate is heading!
Having said that – I personally believe that three elements probably should come into play when considering whether you run a particular ad on your account. The first is perhaps more about ethics than the other two which are for me just good business sense and about delivering value to my followers:
If you’re being paid to tweet, disclose it. How you clearly do it in 140 characters can be challenging but it can be done ranging from ‘Sponsored Tweet’ in the tweet to ‘#ad’. I suspect we’ll see some widely accepted practices emerge around this in the coming year.
I was asked a while back to run an ad in my twitter stream for running shoes – the payout for a single tweet was over $1000. I refused in the same way I would refuse to run the same ad if someone wanted me to run it on my blog. My blog and twitter stream are on the topic of social media and blogging – not shoes or running. While I do stray off topic from time to time on Twitter (and my followers forgive me for doing so) – receiving money for a tweet that is totally irrelevant to my topic will probably not go down well with my followers.
I’m not sure it’d deliver much value to an advertiser either to promote an irrelevant ad (although I see my fair share of them on TV).
Related to this I’d probably also be wanting to only do sponsored tweets that are legitimate and not scammy products or services. Really it comes down to keeping on topic and being useful to followers.
I’ve run three disclosed and relevant advertising tweets on my @problogger Twitter account in 2 years (one through ad.ly and another two were sold directly). In that time I’ve tweeted 15,330 times. I don’t think I’m in danger of letting my Tweet stream become overrun by paid tweets. However if twitter advertising does take off I could see the temptation for some Twitter users to let their streams become overrun by sponsored Tweets.
In the same way that I refrain for letting all of the real estate on my blog above the fold get overrun with advertising (pushing the content down under the fold) I would want to let ‘content’ and being useful be the primary thing that I do on my Twitter account.
What other Factors Would You Ad?
These are the three main factors that I’d consider as I look at whether I’ll tweet something for money.