I spent four months in Rock Springs, WY before moving to the Seattle area. During my time in Rock Springs, I rented a small apartment and didn’t have many friends outside of work. But over time I got to know a man who managed a small print and frame business. One afternoon he asked me to lunch. I was excited to finally make a friend.
But when I showed up for lunch, he was dressed in a suit and tie. I thought that was odd, but didn’t realize what I’d walked in to until he pulled out a large white binder and said, “There’s something I’d like to share with you”.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, my new friend wanted to “share” the Amway dream. I felt used. I pushed my lunch away and spent the next 10 minutes coming up with excuses to leave.
I thought back to this experience as I read several articles discussing Twitter advertising from Robert Scoble and Steven Hodson. I respect both of these guys, and felt I’d chime in with a few thoughts of my own on the issue.
Twitter has always felt like a casual conversation among friends to me. It reminds me of the old days on IRC chat where people sat around and shot the breeze for hours. But I can’t imagine sitting around with a group of guys on a Saturday afternoon when suddenly one guy stands up and yells, “23-inch Dell Monitor on SALE NOW! Use Referral Code: 12301”.
Can you imagine this same person shouting out ads every five sentences? How about only once every time you got together?
No way. We’d kick his butt to the curb the 2nd time he pulled that stunt. And that’s how in-Tweet advertising feels me. It feels shady and unauthentic. Why would I click on some random link so someone else can get paid when I don’t see the value?
Now I’m not going to unfollow someone the first time they send an ad across my screen. But I’ll scrutinize the relationship to see if their other tweets are of such high value that it’s worth the occasional ad noise. If not, I’ll unfollow.
Both Robert and Steve mention Chris Pirillo as someone who uses uses his blog, Facebook and Twitter to push ads and coupons on his followers. I like Chris’ sense of humor and have followed him for many years. I saw him speak at WordCamp Seattle this year and find him to be intelligent and thoughtful. He’s also an excellent speaker. But as much as I recommend him in person, I stopped reading his blog and following him on Twitter because I was unable to determine where his editorial content stopped and his ad pitch kicked in. Does he really like that new Mac or is someone paying him to talk about it? Chris gambled with my trust and lost. And trust is not easy to regain so why risk it?
Last year a travel company offered me cash to place a small text ad under the search bar on my blog. I thought about it for a few weeks and eventually accepted the money which was just enough to cover my hosting fees for the four blogs I host. You won’t find it on my blog today because I decided not to renew it for a second year. At the time, I felt like it wasn’t a conflict of interest because I don’t really write about travel.
But it never felt right. I understand that some bloggers like Steve are trying to make a living by writing and providing valuable content and opinion. I agree with Scoble that those people deserve to get paid for their writing. But when it comes to Twitter and its casual nature, I don’t agree that anyone is entitled to receive payment for their tweets. Why should anyone get paid to use Twitter? What do they provide that I can’t get elsewhere? Links to content that I can find on Digg or Failblog?
Writing a blog, interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter all give me the opportunity to make friends, share my thoughts and learn from others. Once advertising enters the mix, my guard goes up and the relationship changes. Apparently those changes don’t bother many people given the number of ads I see on blogs. Remember how nice and clean Dooce used to be? Check it out today. Same goes for TechCrunch. I don’t have much patience anymore searching for content among a sea of ads. It’s easier to unsubscribe and move on to another blogger who respects my time.
I don’t want people following me on Twitter or read my blog to wonder if I really like the Flip Mino HD or I’m just saying so because Flip paid me to say that or gave me free product. My reputation and name mean more than the money.
And isn’t trust what it comes down to anyway? Why risk losing that trust by sending ads down your Twitter stream? The risks don’t outweigh the rewards.