More thoughts on in-Tweet advertising

I believe that people who produce content should be able to make a living for producing that content. If we want journalists, bloggers, photographers, and videographers to bring us interesting stuff that makes our lives richer, we gotta figure out a way to get them paid. That’s why I care deeply about the topic of advertising and why I follow it so closely.

I joined ad.ly tonight. Partly because a friend of mine told me I should check out how much other Twitterers were getting paid. And lots of them are getting paid a ton. I’ve heard of some celebrities getting paid $30,000 for week’s worth of tweets. One guy, with 50,000 followers, claimed on his Twitter stream tonight that he was getting paid $3,000 a week.

I really don’t like in-Tweet advertising, but wanted to learn more because I’m seeing more and more of them. Why don’t I like them?

1. I like a strict firewall between editorial (er, words you write) and advertising (words someone else writes that they pay to put in front of your audience).
2. I don’t think the ad models out there price things properly. 10 people are not the same. Here, let’s say I have 10 people who are poor. Is that list worth the same as, say, 10 people who will buy a house in the next month? No way. Yet on Twitter and other streams we just don’t know enough about audiences to price ads properly.
3. If Twitter or Facebook becomes infested with instream ads it will piss everyone off and we’ll all leave, so any investment in building audiences in those systems will be destroyed by the greed of other people (I don’t run ads, but if I’m the only one who doesn’t then it doesn’t matter because no one will stay there. Already on Twitter I’ve seen even good friends, like Chris Pirillo, run tons of ads — I unfollowed him because I got tired of it).
4. I believe advertisers are getting ripped off, because some ad systems aren’t sharing the REAL value of a person’s audience and is using just lame metrics like number of followers to price out ads. When advertisers get ripped off, they figure it out pretty quickly and tell everyone that the system is screwed and to avoid at all costs. That sort of happened with Second Life (I worked at Microsoft and we put lots of money into an island’s design and didn’t get the return we should have).

So, first, on the other side, Mark Suster is an investor in Ad.ly, and he wrote a blog sticking up for in-tweet Twitter advertising. You should read his post. He’s probably right, but I don’t like in-tweet ads.

I also called and talked tonight with Ad.ly CEO Sean Rad and he told me a few things:

1. They only have one tweet a day, because they know that too many ad tweets will piss off followers.
2. Their payments are NOT based on just followers.

The New York Times has an article on Twitter advertising. In it I said I unfollow people who put ads in their Twitter stream. I should have been a little bit more clear. Putting ads in your stream, if you disclose them, won’t automatically get me to unfollow you, but it does cause me to look at the value I’m getting out of your stream. With Pirillo there is some value. So, I might follow him even though he does fill his stream with crappy ads and treats us pretty badly by not always disclosing what he’s getting paid for and what he just is putting in the stream because he’s excited. But with the other guy tonight all I saw were ads. So, I unfollowed and won’t be looking back. Actually I unfollowed Pirillo too. I don’t think he’s disclosed everything clearly or explained where his ads were coming from and until he does I’ll stay away. (UPDATE: Pirillo claims he discloses everything with an #ad hashtag, but I’ve seen stuff on his stream that looks like ads that weren’t disclosed, which demonstrates some of the problem here. It’s a perception issue).

I see some ad systems are selling ads based on followers. Even ad.ly puts that metric right on their home page, even though the CEO says that they have an extensive system for rating Twitterers. Rad, the CEO, says that the reason they don’t show the real ranking that they have is that it would piss off publishers (he admitted that many “mid-tier” publishers, like Leo Laporte, are actually more influential and drive higher ad rates than many celebrities, but he told me he isn’t willing to piss off the celebrities because they have better selling power with advertisers than people who have built more engaged audiences on Twitter, but don’t have the big names).

I think that this is a major problem for the new Twitter ad industry and is probably one reason Twitter itself has stayed away from selling ads.

My friends have been studying audiences on Twitter and real adoption behavior happens mostly through organically gotten followers, not by being a celebrity or being on Twitter’s Suggested User List. Think about it. Who would you rather have as a follower? Someone who really chose you and finds you interesting, or someone who has no clue what Twitter is about and added you because you’re on a list?

Compare Brooke Burke’s followers (she got almost all of her followers by being on the suggested user list), for instance, to the followers of Leo Laporte (he’s never been on the suggested user list).

What do you notice?

1. Leo’s followers actually use real pictures.
2. Leo’s followers actually write real content.
3. Leo’s followers (you have to study bit.ly link behavior to know this) actually click on links at a much higher rate than Burke’s do. IE, they trust what he has to say and are much more engaged with his content.
4. Burke’s followers only put her on 1,679 lists (and look at the crappy lists she’s on), while Leo’s followers put him on 6,398 lists and lists that are a lot less spammy and a lot more engaged. Keep in mind that Burke has 1.6 million followers while Leo has 150,000 followers. If Burke’s audience was as engaged as Leo’s is, she would be on 60,000 lists right now, not 1,679 (leaving quality of the lists aside).

So, what do advertisers care about?

1. Sales. IE, does the audience TAKE ACTION on what is being placed before them. Leo’s audience already is proven to take action at many many times the rate that Burke’s does (by looking at engagement, bit.ly link clicking, list development, etc).
2. Wastage. How much money do you have to spend to find people who take action? This is why old-school advertising is dying. What would you rather do? Spend $40,000 on a billboard by a freeway or put that $40,000 into Google ads where the advertiser ONLY pays if someone clicks on the ad. There’s a reason why Google is making billions of dollars. In Twitter there’s TONS of wastage.
3. Hitting the right audience. If you are selling women’s shoes, would you be better off hitting Burke’s audience (as crappy as it is, there are SOME real people there) or Leo’s?

But, see, if a women’s shoe company wants to advertise on Burke’s twitter account, they have to pay for all the followers Burke has, most of which aren’t really good.

If advertisers are paying a hefty fee for Burke just because she has lots of followres they are being ripped off. One thing I’ve learned is that advertisers don’t like being ripped off, so will force ad networks to use scores other than pure numbers of followers to price ads. And that’s if they stick around. Many advertisers may just leave and tell their friends at industry conferences to stay away.

Personally I hate in-tweet advertising. The real money is OUTSIDE THE TWEET. I expect that Twitter will clean up there big time with its new advertising play, coming soon (although Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder, still is saying that Twitter isn’t focusing much effort on ads. I wonder what the real story is here?).

Also this week I talked with Likaholix co-founder Bindu Reddy. She is working on a new ad network for bloggers and Twitterers that lets publishers choose the ads by using the technology of liking that they made for Likaholix, a service where you can share what products and services and experiences you “like.” Hey, like that Diet Coke? Get paid for it! :-)

But all this stuff makes me worried for the future of Twitter. I think Twitter needs to come out for or against these new ad networks and needs to build a platform that properly identifies advertising tweets via a different color. I’d love to be able to “tag” Tweets using my SuperTweet idea and write “advertisement” in the SuperTweet, which would tell everyone that that Tweet is an ad.

Anyway, ads are coming to streams like Twitter and Facebook whether we like it or not, so it’s time for those of us who do care about these systems to speak up and say what is acceptable and not. Here, again, is my “unacceptable” list:

1. Filling more than 5% of your stream with advertising Tweets (unless you are building a stream of ONLY advertising).
2. Not disclosing ON EVERY TWEET that you are paid to send.
3. Taking ads from companies you are covering editorially. So, if I want to write a Tweet (unpaid) about Intel it better not be right next to a paid Intel Tweet.

What’s your unacceptable list? Will you be doing in-Tweet advertising?

UPDATE: Nick Halstead, founder of TweetMeme, pitched the TechCrunch Real Time Crunchup with a new idea for in-tweet advertising called “Ad Tweets.” His pitch can be seen in this video from the event, about eight minutes in.

UPDATE #2: I will interview Ad.ly’s CEO on Tuesday, so if you have any questions, leave them in comments here.

Comments

  1. Robert,

    Great post! I am completely against in-stream advertising in a broad audience like twitter. I think it dilutes the waters of what is the power of internet audience engagement and looks back to the newspaper model of “cast a wide net and hope to get some of fish”.

    There is so much power in tightly focused niche audiences. Look at Kim Kardashian, what possible benefit do I (or anyone for that matter) get out of posts like “Can't sleep, I have to be up pretty early…shopping on eBay”. she has 2.6 million followers because she is a drama queen on TV, and for absolutely no other reason than that. To your point, look at someone like Zaibatsu from Denver, CO, 16th most influential twitter user according to twitalyzer, and he has never done anything spectacular to warrant this kind of following, all he has done is cull a genuine audience of followers because he tweets quality content, every single time (signal to noise ratio).

    So, sorry, back to my point. Advertisers are being pushed into a place they have been comfortable for years, believing that have something go out from Kardashian is more valuable than from Zaibatsu, strictly based on celebrity status and followers.

    What do you end up with? “Internet advertising doesn't work, we tried it and got poor ROI”. that is because the people selling advertising are too lazy or not smart enough to sell value, so they sell numbers.

    It needs to be stopped by those of us in the space that do understand targeted audience ROI and start showing advertisers that they should be going for quality of audience, not number of eyeballs.

    Erik Boles
    http://ErikBoles.com
    http://twitter.com/ErikBoles

  2. I think my “unacceptable” list would be the same as yours.
    In particular, lack of full disclosure would be the biggest negative for me.

    That is why I disagree with critics of the FTC's attempts to ensure that bloggers provide full disclosure of payments from their advertisers. Anytime, there is a conflict of interests (and there shouldn't be many), there needs to be full disclosure.

  3. I saw a good disclosure on the first ad.ly's campaign for NBC – the tweet had “ad by ad.ly” in the body, and the client type was “Ad.ly ad network”, or something like that.
    Since then I have not seen ad.ly ads that are clearly marked. May be I simply have not stumbled upon them.
    Disclosure of my own: our startup MustExist has experimented with advertising on Twitter, so finding the most effective and cleanest way is of a great interest to us.

  4. Quality post though as ever on the subject of advertising and digital (push, pull plus somewhere in between) it's highly contextual. Who is say what to whom in which way, when and how. What are they doing, thinking etc.

    I believe we need more deeper analysis of the content provider. The old broadcast model (broadly speaking as some power tweeters are working in monologue format much like radio, print and TV of old) meant that we grouped and segmented the audience much more than we did the TV station or newspaper.

    But here's the thing. I have a relationship with say Robert. I trust his views and recommendations. But not with everything. Anything digital or tech is good to go and worth investigating. But if Robert suggests a bar or nightclub. Then knowing is social and psychographic profile from understanding his content over the years. I doubt whether there is a matched agenda with say my tastes of single male into minimal tech house music and late night explorer vs happy and contented succesful digital pioneer, blogger. Though we meet on an interest in photography say.

    So what is need is a deeper understanding of the content providers. The old to0ls of demographics are simply to blunt to deal with understanding where a matched agenda can be aligned by looking at the audience. No much better to have more use of infographics, data visualization and so forth to get a deeper understanding of who to be interested in not who is interested in the subject so to speak.

    Twitter lists is an interesting self segmenting profiling of what the content provider is interested in or respects. Surely the future is about self selection in terms of how followers choose to get involved with people over media apertures.

    I could go on but there's something about bringing our own data profiles to the game and allowing us to pull rather than be subjected to indiscriminate push messaging as we all dislike innapropriate commercial interruptions though distraction is an interesting side step on that subject. I'm convinced that there needs to be a distinct and permission only aperture on my screen where I know relevant and contextual information is put in an engaging manner no matter where it comes from. Google ads to twitter. But I don't want it everywhere or in different places.

    Pop up avatar in the bottom right hand corner for all of it. Text and/or voice with full control would be great and I'd be prepared to hand over my social graph/profile to the best bidder for that. Then all my twitter lists could sell me what they like as well as anyone else that was willing to pay for that privilege. Complex but nothing a silicon chip would struggle with.

    Disclosure I work in the advertising industry :)

  5. I agree on the followers count being a legacy of the pageviews mentality (which was a legacy of the eyeballs of old media).
    Models based on “impressions” will fail on Twitter (as they have everywhere…).

  6. My only question right now is how many followers I'll piss off and how many won't care, and also those who will understand. I'm going to try adly for a month and see what happens…will blog about it…I fear we may be at a precipice here.

  7. I don't mind ads in a twitter stream if it's one ad per day in someone's stream. I'm going to look at something advertised in Scoble's stream if he really thinks it's a good product/service. I'm going to pay attention. I'm going to click thru and I don't mind one ad tweet a day out of your entire stream.

    I suppose if I saw a “Stay at a this new hotel for $50/night” in your stream then it wouldn't be too cool because it's off topic and totally out of character of your tweets.

    It would be interesting to here the formula for quality of tweets. For instance, what if someone grew an account to 15,000+ followers with an automated followers/followees service. What if the stream was fed by RSS tweets with specific niche news, tips and techniques every 2-3 hours. What if the owner of the twitter account actually interacted personally with the stream in addition to the auto-feed? What if sponsored tweets paid $20/tweet with one ad tweet being offered every 2-3 days. I would imagine there's a quality of tweets measurement. Even though there are 15,000+ followers, if the click-thru rate wasn't up to snuff, then the ad offers might slow down or stop.

    But, forget about the stars of anything, movies, web, bloggers, etc. How about the folks with rock solid twitter relationships with 1,000 followers, 2,000 followers or 5,000 followers and quality tweets/communication with their followers? Can they make money with sponsored tweets and services like ad.ly?

  8. bill that question is directed at me…

    ive built my 3100 followers organically over 5 months of heavy tweeting,
    nearly 13000 tweets at this point.

    I am dedicated to experimentation in this world, so i'll give ad.ly a try
    and see what happens…

    I share a lot of information, I converse a lot, I am an engaged member of
    the community. I congratulate my friends and followers when they hit
    milestones and i RT a ton of content…

    we shall see…

  9. I come from England and grew up watching the good old BBC…no ads. When I moved to the States 15 years ago, I was horrified at the numberof ads we get here…a 30 minute sitcom is only 17 minutes of programming. I thought to myself “well this is crappy…how do they live like this”. But soon I got used to it as we will in-stream ads on twitter. With an audience as large as Twitter's it's unrealistic to think that ads won't, or even shouldn't appear. To say that ads shouldn't be on'Twitter would be like saying porn shouldn't be on the internet; we might be able to agree morally it shouldn't but it's unrealistic to think it won't happen. And regarding the argument that the quality of the eyes looking at the ads is poor…how is posting an ad on twitter ANY different to sending junk mail (either in email or physically)? No difference. Junk mail is used because of the large volume with an expectation of low % conversions; the eyes viewing the junk is just as poor an yet junk mail is still very common indeed.

    I am an Amazon Associate and have restricted my revenue generating to that (and the very occasional sponsered tweet…I've only done 4 of those). I try and remember to mention that the item I'm refering to is on Amazon.com…I might forget sometimes. I also try and only mention items I own or would like to own…so the content is still personal in that sense.

    In any case, when you are following over a few thousand people are you really getting a good experience in the stream anyway? I'm only up to 400 or so and I've already turned to lists to filter what I read.

    I think with this type of service it is enevitable that ads will appear and we need to suck it up and get used to it. Maybe one day soon we'll get what amounts to a DVR experience so we can fastward (filter out) the ads in the stream if we don't want to view them.

  10. I have stayed away from Twitter instream ad programs because of the following reasons.

    The basic unit on Twitter is a tweet. There are various kinds of tweets like replies, mentions, #followfriday forwards, retweets etc. But the fundamental unit is always a 140-character-tweet.

    With the integration of retweets, a new unit has been introduced. It looks similar to a tweet but isn't really a tweet. It can't be edited, it has additional metadata, it assigns creator credit to the creator. However, the reason I don't dislike it is because it doesn't pretend to be an ordinary tweet.

    I would have no objection to ads if they became a new unit on Twitter. But as of now, they are not and it is very easy to confuse them with the original fundamental unit of Twitter. Ads would be great if they were more like Twitter's new retweets.

    I appreciate the opportunity to make money as much as the next fellow, but to do so at the cost of the sanctity of my conversations is more than I am willing to accept. It would be like chatting with a friend and bursting into an advertisement in the middle of it. Low!

  11. well, I see your point but the difference is most people following you on Twitter are NOT friends…in fact, you have no clue who they are. Ads instream are like junk mail…no difference.

  12. There are manysimilar examples to instream ads…when I'm listening to the radio talk show host about…whatever, politics, the news, relationships….and he suddenly starts telling me about how he uses a carpet cleaning service or some online backup service it's really exactly the same thing. He doesn't know almost all of the people listening to him (just like you don't know almost all of the 150K pepole who follow you) and all of them know when its an ad (especially now the FCC have mandated that they annouce its sponsored).

  13. There are manysimilar examples to instream ads…when I'm listening to the radio talk show host about…whatever, politics, the news, relationships….and he suddenly starts telling me about how he uses a carpet cleaning service or some online backup service it's really exactly the same thing. He doesn't know almost all of the people listening to him (just like you don't know almost all of the 150K pepole who follow you) and all of them know when its an ad (especially now the FCC have mandated that they annouce its sponsored).

  14. 1) Leo doesn't use bit.ly much so I'm not sure it's a fair comparison, but 2) comparing the bit.ly links on Leo's account to those on Brooke Burk's (adding a “+” to the url), I'm seeing a lot more clicks on Brooke's links (most average over 1,000 clicks). Brooke's followers also don't have avatars because they're most likely not that active on Twitter.

    I'm not sure these are the only factors you should consider as well – Brooke's followers also probably don't follow as many people as Leo's, and therefore may be more likely to see and click on Brooke's links.

    What does that mean? Well, I'm sure if you compare Brooke's ratio of followers to clicks compared to Leo's you would see a much lower number for Brooke, but the fact of the matter is Brooke is still seeing more clicks, and with the right advertising (Mom-related stuff it looks like), she should be paid accordingly. In the end it's all about the numbers. In this case, higher numbers, regardless of ratio, is a good thing, and why people seek that number. I'm not saying it's right for everyone, but it's the reason many seek to have high numbers. High numbers does == higher clicks, regardless of ratio. Higher numbers are also much easier to achieve than a strong ratio.

  15. I'm glad that Leo won't do ads in Twitter as there simply isn't enough space available in a tweet stream to make it not be too blatantly obvious…in a podcast, an ad (even some of Leo's longer ones) is balanced out by content, but that doesn't happen with Twitter as I see it…when I see an ad tweet (even just one), I immediately unfollow that ID and/or never would follow them if I wasn't before…if Twitter wanted to put ads on a sidebar, that would be ok but not ideal…just as long as they weren't the flashing ones!

  16. Now if you want to measure influence, that's a much harder number to measure, and often much less valuable because of that. Influence is something you get a much greater personal reward for, but isn't always recognized as much by outside society. It's hard to measure the downline caused by influence – if someone invents that, you have something with serious value and Leo's value would shoot through the roof (even more than it is now).

  17. Now if you want to measure influence, that's a much harder number to measure, and often much less valuable because of that. Influence is something you get a much greater personal reward for, but isn't always recognized as much by outside society. It's hard to measure the downline caused by influence – if someone invents that, you have something with serious value and Leo's value would shoot through the roof (even more than it is now).

  18. i don't see what the big deal is. maybe i look at it differently as i'm not an early adopter who comes from the tech sector. i have a retailer/consumer mindset when approaching this stuff because ultimately it doesn't matter what the geek purists say. once things hit mainstream — as they should — opinions on this comment board won't matter if there's serious money to be made.

    i see ad.ly and other in stream advertising no differently than a commercial inserted into a tv show.

    honestly, one tweet a day by someone i'm following is no big deal …at least for me because i've curated my following list and know the folks enough to not freak out if they're trying to monetize the time they spend sharing info, etc with me.

    and what's the difference between something like ad.ly and say …chris pirillo's tweets. he inserts the equivalent of his own ads and affiliate links in between his tweets. i haven't unfollowed him.

    lastly, it's also worth noting that ad.ly lets you donate your revenue to charity. as i asked you earlier, would you unfollow if i allowed offer from brand X with a % of proceeds going to a cause i supported? again. curious.

    i'm partial to wanting to see where this goes and therefore giving it a fair shot to evolve before shooting it down with limited knowledge and experience with it beyond a simple sign up.

    again, maybe i look at it differently b/c i'm not from silicon valley. hey, spent 5 years in the tv shopping industry. infomercials and suzanne somers selling cubic zirconia on tv may not appeal to most people, but there are folks watching and buying that crap to the tune of billions of dollars a year.

    i always appreciate your opinions as someone who sees this stuff launch and evolve, but just because a few early adopter techies think it sucks, it doesn't mean it's not going to work. i think it's too early to slam.

    ramble over. :)

  19. (last thing) Note that Paul Revere, one of the most influential people in this Nation's history, doesn't even get the credit for the things invented and originated and founded by those people he influenced. Yet many of the liberties we have today are a result of the people he came in contact with, the people he touched, and the relationships he built. If only we could find a way to measure that and pay him accordingly.

  20. is there a big difference between inserting ads into your own twitter stream and asking fans to insert hash tags in their tweets? It isn't as overt but it still seems like advertising of a sort. a difference in degree if not in kind?

  21. I'm in your boat Christine. I think the key though is going to be enabling users to get the context they want – if they're a huge fan of Oakley sunglasses, then they should be able to choose to see Tweets about Oakley sunglasses, regardless of whether they're an advertisement or not. I think taking that with things like the technology Kynetx and true identity systems is going to make a lot of that really possible. Everything's just fine so long as the consumer/user has full control over what they want and don't want to see.

  22. Hash tags are more easily ignored visually than a ad tweet, at least to me…and having fans do that is a way of the consumer deciding to make the ad and not the celeb.

  23. awesome commentary Robert… celebrities like brooke burke have a lot more media power though in the mainstream community than Leo though. I'm a huge Leo fan but Brooke can attract the higher dollar in stream advertisers due to her popularity and of course hot looks.

    Agree that in stream advertising sucks though. It'll be interesting to see what Twitter's advertising campaign/strategy will be. Who knows but hopefully won't be in stream stuff.

    30k/week though. Name that person.

  24. Regarding charity. I'm really getting tired of being begged to retweet charity links on Twitter (I get two per day lately). So, there's that. I think advertisers will get tired of it if they don't get returns on their investments and we'll get tired of it if we see too many ads (which will cause Twitter's numbers to head down again).

    As to ads, if they are disclosed I don't mind them once in a while, but it does change my relationship to you if you use them. It marks you as trying to make money off of our relationship. See, Chris Pirillo is a friend. Now it feels like everytime I go and visit his house he says an ad before I can sit down for dinner. It's weird. But I guess I'll have to accept it.

  25. By the way, this is a HUGE deal to journalists. Journalists aren't allowed to put ads inside their editorial (at least not at reputable places like the New York Times). People who say it is “no big deal” mark themselves as in PR. That's cool, it's just another part of what makes me likely to listen to you since I know you might be saying something just to get a buck.

  26. We'll see soon enough how twitter ads go. I bet in the next 3 months they will grow like weeds. Currently, I unfollow people who do daily ads out of principle. If someone has one ad, and loses 10% of their followers, it might make everyone think twice about it.

    And ad disclosure is going to be pointless and soon non-disclosure will have to be the only way. As soon as ad.ly becomes even a bit popular, there will be a twitter client that automatically blocks all ad.ly posts and users will flock to it. Any tweets marked #ad, etc. Easy to block, 100x easier than the web.

    And lastly, I don't think it's fair to compare Brooke Burke and Leo Laporte. Leo has a highly tech audience on the leading edge. As soon as lists came out he must have been one of the top people added to them. Brooke is basically a full-time mom these days – she's not even TRYING to market to people, she has no show or movie to promote. She's just tweeting about her kids. Lists have been “public” to all for what – a week or two now? It proves nothing because its so new and only twitter-geeks use them.

  27. Sorry, I've visited tons of people's lists and I'm seeing a trend here. Some celebrities DO have engaged audiences that create lots of lists. Oprah's, for instance, but most celebrities that are on the SUL don't get many lists created at all. At least not for the size of their supposed audiences. Also, you should know, I have other data and so does Ad.ly's CEO (he told me he has data showing that many celebrities aren't very influential at all, at least not compared to someone like Leo who has built his following organically). More on that soon cause I'll be interviewing Ad.ly's CEO on Tuesday.

  28. Great topic for discussion. I have tweeted Amazon links to products I like and use and have tweeted links to other sites that I make a comission on if people join. It has been on purpose and for products or services I believe my followers may be interested in.
    I am curious to go sign up or read up on ad.ly since I am an early adopter and love to keep up with technology and social media changes. I do not think I would actually send out ads unless I could pick the exact product and it was one I liked because I think it would bug my followers that I care about.

    I am actually torn right now about if to grow the number of people I follow or to scale it back. I am around 5,000 organic growth. It would be around 10,000 if I auto followed. I still review all new followers and add a couple each day and unfollow a couple each day if they have ads for products I do not like or swear. It is time for me to get my lists built so I can keep tabs on my favorite Twitter buddies because with 5,000 people tweeting I miss a lot of good stuff.

    I think if you tweeted a compensated link for products you like and some of your followers my enjoy your opinion it is fine. Like a Amazon link to your new Canon Camera or Flash or tripod or car or baby seat or computer. If it was for Glamor magazine it would not be congruent.
    I think if you just run random ads then it is not ok.
    I would not mind having an ad on my profile page for a product I support.
    I am not opposed to sending out ads in a RSS fed news account.

    I actually think that there will be something new coming out that will become more popular than Twitter, Facebook and MySpace without ads and as a paid service. It may already be in development and it could be the Buzz for early adopters by the summer of 2010.
    The only other idea is that the average number of people followed by users with @replies starts to stabilize as ads become more popular.
    I also expect to see ad blockers and filters integrated into applications like Tweetie, Tweetdeck, hootsuite, friendfeed and others starting as early as March 2010 for beta testers.

  29. Robert – all good points. I do think you need to have a chat with folks in the cause marketing space as there is a lot of good and innovative stuff being developed for the very reason why you mention charity fatigue in the current format where folks are begging you to RT this or that.

    Fact. $300B given to US charities in 2008, only $6B online. There's a huge opportunity as non-profit communities adopt social media for tech to provide ways to raise money for causes without having to have people tweet you for a retweet.

    In ad.ly's model I can imagine a scenario where – example – mom bloggers on ad.ly are cool with having a “Join Kelly Ripa in fighting ovarian cancer and enter to win a new washer/dryer set from Electrolux”

    You seeing this in your tweet stream, not relevant. Me having a mom who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer years ago. I'd very likely click over to join. My not knowing anything about ovarian cancer but being a woman who can empathize I would likely click over to join Kelly Confidential because Electrolux donates $1 for everyone who sends a cupcake during Ovarian Cancer awareness month …plus, I get a chance to win something cool.

    Follower enters to win chance for Electrolux stuff and activates a $1 donation. Charity wins new donations from Electrolux sponsorship. Electrolux gets branding and new folks in their database that fit the profile of the consumers they target.

    At the very least, I wouldn't unfollow the mommy blogger in my network who I'm familiar with.

    There's plenty of ROI in this model because it's something that already exists. i.e. i'm not making it up, i'm simply adding the concept of ad.ly as another tool in an existing toolbox for a thing that already works to the tune of hundreds of thousands of members of this:

    http://www.kelly-confidential.com/

    Anyways, getting way too into details but hope I made sense. Just trying to point out that the current user experience from your POV does not mean there's no role for in stream advertising.

    We haven't even touched other sectors yet. Like tourism.

    And again, all this based on 1 tweet a day. Opt in on both sides. Filtered, etc. I think it's worth a try.
    And yea, it's still no big deal to me. You know me Robert. In the above scenario would you be saying that I'm just trying to get a buck when i set my ad.ly for 100% rev to go to charity of my choice and that was clearly marked in tweet (working on it).

    Full disclosure. I'm a friend of Dan Gould's who advises for ad.ly so have had a few conversations learning more and bouncing ideas. My interest in this model isn't in making money. I just see the same platform can be used for cause related initiatives for communities already active and mobilizing online. You may be annoyed by Kelly Ripa's Ovarian Cancer / Electrolux tweet but someone else who fits their target demographic wouldn't.

  30. Robert and fellow commenters:

    Here is my idea. I am not a techie like most of you, but this is something I would like:

    First, here is what I know:
    1. People spend a LOT of time creating valuable content here for others in order to grow legitimate audiences-some may want to be compensated for it. Ok.

    Idea:

    a. start a network where there are all kinds of ads-like a YOUTUBE for ads.
    b. Twitter charges x dollars a month for increased functionality like your idea of SUPER TWEETS with all kinds of juicy meta data, Roberty. For x dollars a month less x, I get access to SUPER TWEET data BUT I have to choose ads to appear in my stream.

    Keyword: CHOOSE. I go to this YOUTUBE channel of ads and CHOOSE ads I will allow to be fed into my stream at the rate of 1/2 per day? For me, this would work brilliantly because I DO know my followers since I am the “furniture” niche on twitter and I could easily predict which ads would have at least SOME level of relevance to my followers and I think they would understand and not mind if I explained why I am doing it.

    If all of us were allowed to choose our ads from a databank of ads like this.. then the advertisers would easily be able to tell who has what niche (you would have to register to download the ad) and what types of ads people were finding acceptable..

    There are a million riffs on this, but the biggest idea is this one, i think…let people choose which ads they want to see and when.. we are all smart enough to know that the services we enjoy have to monetize and we also all realize that the people who provide great content would also like to make money because we know it takes real time to always find and produce great content and links.

    I am sure this idea has many flaws as I am not an ad person, but it is something that would work for me. What does everyone think?

  31. I haven't crossed the 10K point yet, but then I wasn't an auto-follower

    However 10K is probably the same as 2K a year ago in regards to how much traffic a link sends – typically 60 – 200 visitors with spikes above 1K plus a network effect.

    Ad.ly suggest my “influence” is worth $123 per week
    Sponsored Tweets suggest around $10 per tweet

    Since Sponsored Tweets were first in early beta, I set my price at $100 per tweet and have never been approached
    I just set Ad.ly at $1000 per week – I doubt I would get approached for that either.

    If an advertiser can't achieve at least $1 per visitor value from my audience of influencers in my niche… if I chose to tweet them, then they suck at marketing or they need to improve their value proposition.

  32. I think we shouldn't even discuss this topic here. I mean, how many radio stations or TV for that matter checked if you'd really like those ads they broadcast in between programs? We all know that ads are distractions, and if we were to ask people, nobody would prefer it.

    So cut the discussion, if Twitter or any other third party thinks that they can deliver a successful model thriving on non-obtrusive/ less-obtrusive ads, then that is the need of the hour. Twitter cannot survive long without a model, and we know it well. So if its its inline tweets, so be it.

    Once everyone starts using it, the noise will cancel out. Its only when you ask someone that they declare they will stop unfollowing those accounts. It doesn't matter at all. The community is self healing and will roll forward, no matter what.

    I think Twitter/third party should go full swing – introduce a tested, strong ad based model where it creates a win-win situation for both tweeters and advertisers. It should become a standard. Now stop crying. We all know that its the only way out, so now is the time to go full swing at it and not come up with a crippled model.

    - I dont think ad.ly or sponsored tweets or any other tool today has a long surviving business model. They are all crippled and will not stand against the test of time.
    - A great ad based revenue model will be the one that makes everyone happy. The tweeter, the listener and the advertiser.

    So until someone makes the thing, I'm waiting.

    btw nice article Robert.

  33. Scoble: I agree with your conclusion, but I think you are being to nice about this topic. Suster's post seemed to be a thinly veiled attempt at having other folks help him justify his investment in Ad.ly.

    I have a difficult time with the notion that you or anyone needs to help find content producers a business model. The ones that count will find theirs on their own.

    Ad.ly appears to be the exact opposite of an innovative business model. It is a cut-n-paste attempt at an advertising model as has been traditional in TV and radio for a long time. But, it fails to consider the nature of 2-way communications, trust, and transparency which are increasingly more common in the digital age. It seems an attempt at supplanting the organic, word-of-mouth style of most discourse on Twitter and Facebook, with an artificial one where the conflict of interest is blatant.

    Advertising costs are built into the prices of things we purchase. I wouldn't want my friends or followers (or myself) to have to pay more for a product. I make product suggestions based on my preferences which will always be better (i.e. more trustworthy) than suggestions made on the basis of an income incentive.

  34. I find the whole Ad.ly business model appaling on so many levels:

    1) exploiting a charity option to appear more legitimate

    2) attempting to insert arbitrage within the process of organic word-of-mouth referrals

    3) the lack of sophistication, creativity, and elegance wreaks of desperation and demonstrates a clear lack of understanding for these new communications channels as to be insulting

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  36. Ok, so you are now admitting a clear lack of objectivity? You have a clear conflict of interest. Further, you seem to believe if people spend money on it, then it is ok for you to participate. Thanks.

    You people seem to think your credibility remains in tact after you note your financial ties. No wonder you are ok with this business.

    There are plenty of people eager to be 'power players 'that simply being noted as someone capable of raising money for charity is enough of an ROI for them. You appear to be this type of person.

  37. Nicely put. You hit the nail right on the head when you had mentioned advertising causes you to see if there really is value in the stream or not – and to follow/unfollow accordingly. My experience has been many people do not totally understand that Twitter (and social networking in general) is more than just blasting links and ads – it's about adding value and a unique perspective. Those will always make the best streams in my book. I constantly unfollow folks who just blare ads or the stupid “…and by following #### I hope to win …”

    As a blogger myself (feel free to check it out at http://www.therobbrennan.com) I will look forward to the day when the revenue streams build themselves up. Right now, I am pleased momentum is gaining. It seems to me the truth of the matter is that we're in an evolutionary phase – but that clearly blasting ads willy nilly is not the answer. Quality is the differentiating factor here, as well. I don't think the old world model of pricing based on numbers (ie thousands of people driving by a billboard, space in Times Square, etc) EVER made sense anyway. A blog/Twitter feed that has thirty or so dedicated and engaged followers has a higher ROI than one just blindly targeting the masses. At least, that has been my experience – as you'll see I don't have any advertising but manage to have my blog sustain itself financially. Neat eh? =)

  38. Paul Revere has long since dies and you want to find a way to get him paid? WTF is wrong with you people?

  39. How about a CPC / Amie St. hybrid model? You only get paid when people click a link, and your CPC rate goes up as more people click the link (every new tweet resets the CPC rate). That way, you only get paid when you tweet great content, which motivates you to only advertise content your audience will really find valuable. And if all you do is spam them with ads (or misleading ads to create clicks), you'll never make money because eventually everyone will unfollow you.

    So the question is, is there enough content out there produced by businesses who would pay for traffic? Absolutely, but it's going to require those businesses to learn to create content with value, not tasteless advertising content. Given the rise of small businesses into the world of blogging and social media, this is a huge opportunity.

  40. There are plenty of people yearning to have an opinion that matters that simply running around leaving anonymous drive by comments seem to be enough from them to feel like an expert on a subject matter and person you obviously have limited understanding of.

    You appear to be this type of person.

    :)

  41. This is the thing I respect about true leaders in the space like Leo. He lives and dies by advertising, there is no corporation giving him a weekly paycheck. However, he understands that his audience are his revenue stream, not his advertisers, and the minute he takes that relationship for granted, he is done.
    (now if we could just get the 20 minutes of advertising on his podcasts down below 10…. totally kidding).

    Erik Boles
    http://ErikBoles.com
    http://twitter.com/ErikBoles

  42. I'm neither yearning for an opinion nor anonymous. Scoble knows this
    even if you do not. I own the related TLD and I use this handle all over
    the web. Thanks for your insight.

  43. How does one determine whose opinion matters and whose does not? Is there some ordained power in charge of such a thing? I implore you to continue the ad hominem attacks rather than addressing the issues I raised as it only makes my argument stronger.

  44. Eugene,
    Ad.ly discloses each paid tweet with a “(Ad)” at the end of it. Initially it was “(Ad by Ad.ly)”, but we removed the “by Ad.ly” part because we didn't want our brand to interfere with the advertiser's message. We believe very strongly in disclosure.

  45. I love Scobe's analysis of your audience. Smart to follow up using bit.ly to track click thrus. I appreciate and respect Leo's choice.. it shows how thoughtful action leads to a higher quality audience.

  46. I love Scobe's analysis of your audience. Smart to follow up using bit.ly to track click thrus. I appreciate and respect Leo's choice.. it shows how thoughtful action leads to a higher quality audience.

  47. With all the smoke and mirrors that exists online and off this is one more turn off if ads are disclosed. I agree that there need to be strict firewalls between editorial and paid content. I don't mind some ads if I know they are ads. I'm curious as to how the new FTC guidelines will impact ad.ly's disclosure mechanisms.I read the guidelines and it certainly appears that celebrities certainly face greater risks for fines …

  48. Robert,
    It's funny how fast things change : ) I saw you on Monday at the Ritz and you said you were totally against any form of Twitter advertising. I knew you would come around, I just thought it would take a bit longer! I would like to invite you to join http://www.sponsoredtweets.com as well. The more offers you receive from different platforms the better opinion you can form of the entire space.

    Not only do we have a system that allow you to choose your advertisers and write your own copy, we also have the industries only Disclosure Engine. This system guarantees disclosure but allows some flexibility for Tweeters (video here http://sponsoredtweets.com/ethics/disclosure-en…).

    I would be happy to discuss our approach to this form of advertising in further depth with you. Perhaps you can make it a two part interview.

  49. Here is an idea or business model for the twitter ads from posters:

    1. Place the ads in a holding status or queue staging area
    2. Allow the twitt followers to vote or approve the ads before they are released
    3. If the ads do not receive enough votes or a threshold limit they are not released
    4. How do we prevent gaming the system? Glad you ask?
    5. Those with larger following will need higher vote threshold limits
    6. Those with smaller following will need lower vote threshold limits
    7. This will level the playing field for everyone placing ads on twitter
    8. Using this system no one will not feel annoyed with ads. Why?
    Because you had a democratic say in the approval of the ad
    9. If you feel the ad is off topic or out of character do not vote
    for its approval

    We create game changing solutions for you.
    http://www.kutro.com

  50. I signed up for Ad.ly and they said my account was worth something like $2900 per week.

    I charge $80 CPMs on TWiT so my Tweets should be worth four times what ad.ly is suggesting. I set my ad rate to a low low $10,000 per week. We'll see if anyone bites! (Hey- if I can make $500,000 a year with a few ads in my tweet stream I'll have to reconsider my stance.)

  51. i don't know about you. i just have a personal preference for engaging with people i know or can get to know in real life. so don't get offended if i happen to think you're someone typing away in his mom's basement eating cheetos. i'm sure you can at least respect that.

  52. I would pay for a premium stream that had no ads in it. Maybe that's Twitter's own monetization model. And I also like content providers to be paid. But the more indirectly the better. Not like MLM friends.

  53. I'm really curious to see that tape. I'm interested in the metrics. And also in how people really read the “river of news” that is Twitter. For instance, I follow 2000 people, although I'm trying to get it down. I know just about all of them, and yet I don't see very one of their tweets. Sometimes I don't see their tweets for a week in my busy stream, and then I go back and search to see what they've been doing.
    How does this influence your metrics?

  54. I did the same – if it pays, it's all business, right? My rule is the ads have to be something my audience will like, they have to be disclosed, and they have to be something I can get behind. Then, we'll see if people actually unfollow because of the ads – that's the only measurement that will cause people to remove the ads. If you don't like them then unfollow. I have a feeling that a few very vocal people will unfollow but the rest don't really care.

  55. I set mine to $20,000 per week. I really don't want to do them. It set my rates at $1,700 per week, though. Interesting to compare with, say, the Demo Conference, where companies pay $18,000 to talk to 1,500 people in audience.

  56. With around 25% of tweets mentioning products or services – I suspect that a whole range of associated performance based advertising products will emerge – the opportunity is too large to ignore. I support appropriate disclosure and I'm sure we'll see many different implementations.

  57. Robert, very good post. I disagree that in-stream advertising is unacceptable. However, most of your objections are valid and can be addressed through 'agreed standards'.

    With my background in journalism, advertising and public relations, I believe social media advertising will become mainstream, and people will get used to it.

    While you aspire to limit advertising content to 5% on Twitter, just for comparison: the current ad-to-editorial ratio is anywhere from 60:40 to 40:60 in printed newspapers.

    David Ogilvy said: “Half of all advertising is a waste. The trouble is, I don't know which half.” Hopefully, internet advertising has a solution to Ogilvy's concern.

  58. I understand that not everyone can debate facts and must rely on
    discounting opinions by stereotyping, but I'm not sure if that's the
    best path to go down. I'm in the process of remodeling, but you are
    welcome to come by to check the facts; I live in Boulder, so you would
    fly to DIA.

  59. I don't think I could claim to be a nice guy. I am, however, real and
    have no issues regarding telling people what I think.

  60. I don't think the debate should be whether to allow in-tweet advertising or not but to set standards that are acceptable to all stakeholders. There's content and interest in tweets and because of that, it will get monetized. The stakes are high, the money is huge, people love money.

    It's now up to the in-tweet advertising service providers like Ad.ly and Sponsored Tweets to take the moral high ground and make sure people are not duped. Disclosure is a great starting point but a lot more needs to be done.

    Let's wait and see if Sean Rad can convince Mr. Scoble on Tuesday.

    There's a lot of room for debate.

  61. Great additions here to the NYT article. Can't wait for Sean Rad's interview. One thing I'd like to ask him is: What is your one sentence response to why in-tweet advertising is good for both consumers and for brands?

    We at SocialMedia.com are in the business of social advertising, yet even our take is that in-tweet advertising contradicts the reasons why social advertising is so powerful in the first place.

    Our experience has show that “real messages from real people = higher ad awareness, purchase intent, and brand favorability”. Yet as soon as you start paying for tweets, the equation becomes “paid messages from real people”, and the rest just doesn't follow. I talk about these ideas more and the debate in my post at: http://blog.socialmedia.com/in-tweet-advertisem

  62. i think twitter is not made for sending ads to the people who have trusted to follow you, people join the other people on twittre in seearch of really good news , or anything which is very interesting , or which is knowledge based! There must be a way to ban the spammers.

  63. there must be a balance in if someone wants to advertise, he must not be able to post more than 2 advertisement tweets in a day !

  64. Yes I agree with you that we need to be care full when we publish an advertise because the quality of advertisement varies from man to man.

  65. It needs to be stopped by those of us in the space that do understand targeted audience ROI and start showing advertisers that they should be going for quality of audience, not number of eyeballs.