Advertisers Are Watching Your Every Tweet

Since Social Media, especially Twitter is such a hot topic I thought you all might find this article interesting... I did - enjoy!!



July 16, 2009, 6:01 pm
Advertisers Are Watching Your Every Tweet
By Saul Hansell
New York Times

Many people wonder who is interested in reading tweets about what people had for breakfast. Well, here’s one answer: cereal makers like Kellogg’s and Quaker Oats.

Advertisers are starting to target ads to you based on what you say on Twitter. And if you tweet something nice about a product, you might even see your blurb in bold type on an ad, just like a Jeffrey Lyons movie review. So says Seth Goldstein, the chief executive of SocialMedia, a company that has created advertising formats for Facebook, MySpace, and now Twitter.
Ad on Power Twitter application from SocialMedia SocialMedia Ad on Power Twitter application from SocialMedia

Of course, Twitter itself doesn’t put ads on its Web site and doesn’t include ads in the streams of tweets from users. But SocialMedia has found other ways to help advertisers bind their messages to Twitter users. One, called Twitter Sparq, places ads on some Twitter applications, including PowerTwitter (a Firefox plugin) and TwitterFon (an iPhone application).

Twitter Sparq is designed to be an automated auction of text ads, much like Google’s AdWords. But while ads on Google relate to what you are searching for, Twitter Sparq ads are shown to people based on “the list of historical keywords that the user has tweeted in the past,” the company’s site explains.

Is that an invasion of your privacy? It’s not like advertisers are sneaking around watching where you surf without telling you. They are listening to what you have chosen to shout to the whole world.

How do they know what you’ve tweeted about in the past? To use any of the tools that help you manage your Twitter account, you need to enter your Twitter username. That username, of course, is also the key to every corn flake and crunchy twig you’ve ever tweeted about.

Just as interesting as the targeting method is the format of the ads themselves. There is a headline and a bit of text, as in a Google ad. But under it are two links, “Tweet now” and “learn more.” The later link jumps to the advertiser’s Web site. The former creates a draft tweet that the user can edit and send to his or her followers. Advertiser can fish for compliments, ask questions related to how their products are used, or even encourage people to criticize rivals.

“It’s hard to get someone to say something good about Comcast, but it’s easy to get people to complain about DSL,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Indeed, Mr.Golstein sees the act of encouraging people to tweet about products as so central to his concept that advertisers will pay for every tweet the ads generate. Right now, the service is offering a free trial for advertisers, but he ultimately expects the auction to lead to a price of $1 to $10 per customer tweet.

“You’re getting real people to say real things about your brands,” he said.

SocialMedia also has technology it calls Twitter Pulse that creates ads that can appear anywhere on the Web that consist of tweets selected about the advertiser’s product or any other topic of interest. The tweets can simply be set to automatically appear if they match certain keywords, or the advertiser can approve which tweets to put in the ads.

As with the Twitter Sparq ads, these ads also offer a button that allows Twitter members to add their own tweets to the subject. One such ad for Juicy Juice tried to spur conversations by asking questions like “How do you stimulate your child’s mind?” and “How important are vitamin-enhanced foods to you?”

For Twitter users, all this is a reminder that privacy and Twitter don’t mix. Not only is what you tweet there for anyone to read, it is there for anyone to take, copy and exploit. Twitter’s terms of service, unlike those on most other user-generated sites, assert no claim to the users’ tweets or place no restrictions on how others use them.

In other words, don’t tweet anything that you aren’t willing to see on a billboard in Times Square or broadcast on the Super Bowl.

The terms do say, “We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.” But there is no way currently for Twitter users to assert rights over their tweets or simply to request that their comments not be used for commercial purposes.

For advertisers, all of this is another step into very uncomfortable territory. They are going to pay to encourage conversations about their products, but they aren’t going to be in full control of what people say.

That may lead to a new version of the old adage: “It doesn’t matter what they say so long as they tweet my name right.”

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Tags: advertising, media, social, twitter

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Comment by Ty Sullivan on July 20, 2009 at 6:22pm
I know Big Brother has been watching since 1984 but...My Breakfast cereal? Really Mad Men, is nothing sacred?
Good piece Sarah. Having come off of a piece on Twitter myself I found this aspect of the Tweet very informative. Are we that voyeuristic a society? Judging from the amount of "reality" TV shows we tune into, I guess we are.
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Comment by tcampos on July 18, 2009 at 1:22am
Thanks for sharing Sarah, this is interesting. I guess if anyone is in advertising, he'd better learn to speak digital, because that's the way the world is going.

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