Paid Marketing On Twitter Can Backfire, But Candor Works

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Though Kanye West may have stolen the mic from young Taylor Swift at the recent MTV Video Music Awards, Twitter may have upstaged even Kanye, MTV reports:

1.3 million VMA-related tweets were unleashed between the time the show started and when it wrapped Sunday night. By Monday morning, the number had ballooned to 2 million. The numbers were unprecedented for Twitter.

While Twitter clearly has powerful reach, marketers hoping to send branding messages to its millions of users face some challenges.[more] An industry has sprung up of companies offering to host sponsored Twitter conversations to boost brand recognition—a form of viral marketing akin to paying people to start conversations about certain products or brands in known urban hotspots. But with today’s media-savvy users, is this really the way to go?

Kirk Shinkle sees candor as essential to success:

If you host an ad, mark it as such (Twitterrific does), and no problem. A (small) number of ads don’t clutter up my feed and if free services mean a pitch or two, well, I’ll suffer through it just like I do on Facebook and The New York Times. I’m not talking about experience-killing ads like Twitter spam or marketers pretending to be users to infiltrate my feeds. Well-defined, unobtrusive ads are a separate animal, and unlike banner ads, I actually notice them when they’re mixed in with my tweets.

Disguising paid brand mentions as real conversations on Twitter feeds is very easy to see through. Most Twitter users were raised on the increasingly sophisticated advertising campaigns that began in the 1980s, and are well-versed in all things media. On the Internet, as elsewhere, tone-deaf self-promotion can backfire.

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