Who"s davidlian?

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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Can you purchase conversation?

So Nuffnang's launched a new service called - appropriately - ChurpChurp. The proposition is simple: create a way for advertisers to easily propogate "word-of-mouth" campaigns whilst allowing top tweeters (not twitterers ok?) to make a pretty penny. But the question is: "will it work?"

I'm not the first to analyse this (heavy work day and all), so you should check out these posts by Shaolintiger's and Bytebot's for additional viewpoints. What I'm really interested in is the dynamic of introducing in-stream advertising into a medium such as Twitter.

Advertising on the web isn't new and it isn't bad. Websites and blogs cost money to host. And let's face it, a good blogger deserves to make some money from his content. But I've always maintained that there's a right way to advertise and then there's the wrong way. Google's probably the best example: Adsense is genius! And Nuffnang themselves are quite the revelation in our Malaysian market (You'll notice the Nuffnang banner ad at the top of my blog.)

But banner advertising, large-rectangle advertising, text advertising have always been tolerable because they are clear and distinct from the actual content of the blog / website. And the best kind are non-intrusive - large enough that you'll notice it, but small enough that you aren't irritated by it.

Then there's the other kind of advertising. Paid for advertorials, not unlike the kind you'd find in print. The modus operandi is simple: the blogger is paid a certain sum for writing an article. And the article is added to the site's content stream (blogposts, stories whatever). Properly disclosed, the occasional advertorial can be informative, and even useful. But here's the twist: Twitter isn't a blog.

Imagine: if half your friends whom you've been having awesome conversations with on Twitter suddenly joined ChurpChurp. Then suddenly, an advertiser purchases an ad campaign where half of them get included in the automated tweet list. And your Twitter stream gets filled with 20 of the exact same tweet from 20 of your pals.

The ideal situation (for the company that paid for the ad, at least) is you get all excited about these "tweets" you're seeing and you go and do whatever the tweets tell you. Or start a conversation.

The reality, I suspect, is much uglier. You'll get irritated, annoyed by the in-flux of ads and seriously have your respect for the offending tweeter damaged.

"Just unfollow them!" I heard you say?

Well, I've thought about it. But I still love having conversations and being connected to those friends.

"Use another platform? What about Facebook?"

Well, those 20 friends don't often chat on Facebook. The action takes place on Twitter.

"Well, why don't you just tell them you don't like that their allowing in-stream advertising?"

That's probably the most sane approach. But as I hope you'll start to see, it isn't about to be so cut and dried. And if they simply refuse, well... it's become a tough decision for you.

How would you feel about the advertiser that got 20 of your friends to post tweets about their latest products or upcoming event? I doubt there'd be much positivity. Not only do those tweet-ads irritate you, they also push you to making the tough decision to follow/unfollow some of those people you may have been enjoying a great deal of interaction with. Which makes me really question the value of advertising thru these means.

If you're a brand that's looking to reach out, Twitter seems to be the perfect place to facilitate two-way conversation between brands and customers or other interested parties. It's a great place to get a great story (or a quirky one) spread around thru re-tweets too. But instead of just buying tweet-ads, these tactics call for investing into a long-term plan to maintain a company / brand presence on Twitter. Dell's a great success story. And locally, there's MAS, AirAsia and P1WiMax too.

Conversations can't be purchased. Getting 20, 100 or even 10,000 people to re-tweet your ad isn't going to generate the kind of good-will, interaction and stickiness (marketeers love this word) that creating your own free Twitter account and actually interacting with people will.


David Wang said...

good post. i'm totally against this too. and i would be very annoyed with advertisers who actually try this.

twitter is not the medium for sponsored tweets because you don't have the space for the disclaimer.

the one thing that could save this is a way for me to opt out of these commercial tweets. not sure that it's possible with the current twitter API..

and twitter is so easy to do as evidenced by @MASTravel, @AirAsiadotcom et al, why would you need to buy tweets? *scratches head*

KY said...

well @mastravel and @airasiadotcom might be able to generate followers, but @michellintyres and @twisters might not, so I can see where this is coming from.

thechannel© | meta4 said...

Boycott all the advertisers who use churpchurp. When the buying stops, so will the churps.

davidlian said...

@David Wang: Beyond the disclaimer, Shaolintiger also made a point about the Twitter audience being a "captive" audience.

@KY: I can see why an easy way to publicise yourself on Twitter is attractive to advertisers. But really, the comeback point is "is it really effective?" And I agree, it'll be easy for some kinds of brands to be on Twitter than for others, and I'd add that Twitter isn't the right platform for every brand.

@TheChannelC: I think everyone is free to try. Let's see what happens. And learn.

goldfries said...

Despite hating the idea, I am still giving it a try. At least if ever I say I hate it, I have experience to back me up. :D

Anyway I foresee that they'll have a lot of users coming, and people who are not on Twitter will also join Twitter.

Why? They target Malaysian / Singaporean. And you know what - it's safe to say hordes of cash-deprived teens will join the foray for the opportunity to make money.

After all, you don't have to tweet. You could just leave your account and have it automated, no?

Or come to think of it, what if I registered 10 twitter account, do mass following and such, and subscribe to ChurpChurp? I'm not sure if it'll work but I think it's plausible exploit of the system.

Hillary said...

Personally I would not risk it. I'm not sure how much the tweeters earn for each tweet but my guess is, it's very little.

If you've had a a chance to meet the other person over mamak, your relationship would deepen instantaneously but if you've only ever had tweeter conversations with the other person, there's probably not enough depth in the relationship to risk being annoying or untrustworthy.

classyadele said...

One cannot 'purchase' conversations, but one can definitely 'host' conversations - and Twitter is exactly that.

Technically speaking, Twitter is a micro-blogging tool - I see it akin to the 'title post' of a blog (having said that, I don't think blog post titles take 140 characters anyway! LOL) - but it does act as a mouthpiece to point readers to the source of its tweet - if the title's interesting (or scintillating LOL) enough.

Besides,having conversations on Twitter takes on a different type of conversational dynamics and constructs altogether. I can't see the effectiveness of companies paying tweeters to spread WoM. They can certainly trigger it, but there's simply no controlling it. So for companies to embark on such a risky task (I still get annoyed by the fact that companies think that social media tools are a quick fix to their branding/marketing problems! Somebody hand me a gun here!), I can only think they're shooting themselves in their foot here. But hey - placing the cynic in me aside - like you said - no harm trying. It would be interesting to see what happens, though.

@DavidWang @DavidLian I don't agree with the fact that Twitter holds a 'captive' audience. A captive audience would be when you have very little freedom of getting 'out of it'. On Twitter, I can choose to UNfollow, I can choose to BLOCK someone, or simply stick to accessing my Twitter pages during certain hours in a day. One's definitely not glued on to Twitter 24-7 (unless you're a BOT, of course. LOL)

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