Wednesday, October 07, 2009
I know. I know. This is my second post in a row about Twitter that has a question as its title. I know the posts have been Social Media heavy lately, and I know I owe you all my analysis of Chicago's failed bid for the 2016 games, but bear with me my dears, as I spin a yarn of greed, ego, and the powers that our personal accounts and engagement are up against.
Gather round Tweeps, and Facebook friends. Tumblrs and MySpace pervs.
The whole thing began about a month and a half ago when one of the top 6 agencies in town sent over someone who referred to himself as a "Social Media Agent" to meet with the celebrity I work with from time to time. Astounded at the notion, since social media doesn't pay off directly, and talent agencies are very aggressive in monetizing everything, and 10% of nothing is bupkes, I was eager if not thrilled to see what this guy knew and what his insight might be into monetizing SM.
When he arrived, I was a touch shocked. Was it possible that a man well into his forties could have insight into SM ? I'm in my early thirties and I can barley keep up, could it be that this man had the tech savvy that I lacked and therefore some sort of insight into monetization that would make everyone very rich? I listened to his pitch with five people present in the room.
The pitch went as follows:
There is a huge amount of money to be made by celebrities who Tweet.
He has a Company that is willing to pay per commercial tweet according to the amount of followers a celebrity may have.
The company hosts a variety of brands that the celebrity can choose from, so the celeb could choose brands that are applicable.
The company requires every fifth tweet to be a commercial with up to 40 tweets a day for it to be profitable.
With the formula pitched, Ashton Kutcher could make over one million dollars monthly.
Naturally there were questions to be asked.
Firstly, the Celebrity in question has an honest but unimpressive 5k followers. Not nearly enough for it to be worth it.
"That can be easily addressed with a service we employ that can artificially boost your numbers. We could have you up to 50k in 2 weeks."
They don't pay per click, they pay per follower?
"Yes, but who knows how long they'll be doing that for. So we have to get on this right away so we can get the numbers up and the tweets going."
Is the tool you use to boost the numbers Ok by twitter?
"Well, not exactly. Which is another reason why we would need to get on this right away."
Who else is doing this?
"Well, if say Ashton Kutcher would do it.."
"No, but if he were.."
Why wouldn't he want an extra 1 million a month?
"I don't know."
Ok, so Ashton doesn't do it, but you haven't told us who. So who else would be interested in doing something like this?
"Well, we want to keep clients protected."
At this point the celebrity interjected. "Do I have to tweet and choose the ads myself or can my guys do it?"
"Oh for sure your staff can do it, 40 daily tweets is a lot."
The celeb's assistant sank into his chair. But the feeling of all in the room is that this bit of sketchiness would not see the light of day. I was glowing at being able to thwart something that would be detrimental not only to the celeb's brand, but to the Twitter community as well. After all, posting for a profit defeats the idea of sharing. Its filling a quota and manipulating. It goes against what the Twitter community is all about, and leaves the door open for the profit hungry "Man" that drove MySpace into the ground. I had come head to head with the capitalist machine and managed to defend my online socialist utopia for another day. God bless the EFF and Creative Commons, keep your filthy corporate greed out of our web, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
This was 45 days ago.
Yesterday it all resurfaced with the acquisition of 2 interns who's duties include Tweeting. Calls were made and the whole mess is a "go". Now it is up to the Twitter community to react. Do we reject advertisement as a part of feeds altogether? Is an individual endorsement more valuable when not contractual? (See? It does connect to the previous post.) All this remains to be seen. I have faith that something so sneaky and ill conceived has little to no place in the twitterverse. However, i have noticed something that insists on a caveat for this sort of marketing on Twitter.
Which leads to this site.
Although i believe that weight loss products and Acai Berry drinks are beneath LAist, their tweets are transparent, and we do not expect a personality or a connection to a website like we would a brand. Their twitter feed is simply links to their blog and their blog makes money off of ads, ergo this is fair play. This cannot be said of corporations and celebrities who use twitter to further their personal brand. Their unspoken contract with the web and in social media participation is to provide the public with information about themselves with goodwill and without trying to make a cynical buck off of us. However, if we find ourselves following celebs, and clicking on their every link with the same blindness with which we accepted hookers and club promoters as our MySpace "friends" then the FAIL Whale is upon us and we can only watch the potential of yet another Social Networking site diminished and destroyed by corporate greed. It really is up to us.