I just learned something big, folks, and I want to share it with you. Because we’re friends, and because I think it’s hilarious.
Twitter users have long seen the advertisements that pop up in our streams. Framed as “Promoted” or “sponsored” tweets, these can be anything from Walmart touting their friendly business practices to BP talking about what a good job they’ve done cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill to Seaworld protesting the documentary Blackfish. They can also include political messages, ads from mom & pop stores and more.
It turns out that the brands only pay to pollute your stream when you engage with their message:
— § (@lawremipsum) May 10, 2014
As someone who generally clicks “dismiss” when obnoxious advertisers force their paid tweets into my sightlines, I now realize I’ve been going about this all wrong. The key isn’t to wipe the brand off my timeline, it’s to engage with the brand so I cost it some money.
Now, every time you engage with a brand, you run the risk of spreading their message, so let’s look at the pros and cons of each method of engagement:
I think this one is a bad idea. It sends the offending brand message out into your timeline, subjecting your followers to their message and potentially making it look like you want more people to be aware of the ad they’re pushing out. Since they don’t pay unless your followers then interact with the message, it gives them some degree of free advertising, depending on how far your tweets reach and what kind of user you are. For social influencers, this can amount to giving a fair amount of free advertising. If you want to run ads for other companies on your feed, that’s fine, but at least go to a site that’s going to pay you for your tweets, and see if you can get money from brands directly.
This is one of the least obnoxious ways of engaging with the message. Click the star below the tweet, and voila, you’ve just cost a huge corporation some money! Sure, it may only be a few cents (or a few fractions of a cent), but every little bit helps!
This is my favorite tactic, especially when I’m in a bad mood. For example, every time I see a paid tweet from Seaworld denigrating Blackfish as propaganda, I write back asking why, if the facts in the documentary aren’t true, Seaworld hasn’t yet sued the filmmakers for libel. Sometimes I even put a period in front of the tweet so that, while it’s still a reply, my followers can see me engaging in this way with the brand. Good for as many hours of fun as the Seaworld social media team has to give!
I’m not entirely clear on how this works: do you have to follow the brand for a given amount of time? If you follow, unfollow and re-follow, do they have to pay twice? Obviously one doesn’t want corporate doublespeak filling up one’s timeline, but if I get an offensive promoted tweet from the NRA or a right-wing conservative PAC, I don’t mind following them for a minute or two, then unfollowing them, if it means using up some of the Koch brothers’ money.
Now, I’m not going to go as far as to advocate the creation of sock-puppet accounts solely for the use of trolling major brands and costing them money, but if you’re interested in throwing a monkey wrench into the metrics these companies are using to suck up your time and attention, it might be worth a laugh to futz around every now and again with the four metrics mentioned above.
And of course, the follow-up question is…do the same rules apply on Facebook?