IZEA has caused a stir today with its new “sponsored tweets” service that matches advertisers with Twitterers. The post over at Mashable has generated considerable discussion, most of it negative (with the exception of responses from IZEA and some of its competitors).
Many commenters have taken to calling “sponsored tweets” spam. (As the service has been described, I’m not sure it qualifies as spam unless any advertising should be labeled as such, but let’s set aside the definition debate for a moment.)
I suspect we would all agree that spam — especially the email variety we are most familiar with — is “bad.” Yet it obviously works, otherwise the spammers would be out of business. For the life of me, I cannot imagine who would spend money after reading some of these absolutely ridiculous emails I find in my spam folder. In fact, anyone who sends money to some overseas web site in exchange for some of the odd potions and elixirs that are advertised deserve pretty much whatever they get.
But it clearly succeeds. There would be no reason to undertake the risk and expense of professional spamming if companies didn’t pay good money for it, as shady as those enterprises may be. And those companies wouldn’t spend the money unless it helped them make money.
Similarly, the same thing will happen with sponsored tweets. Users will either respond by buying in large enough numbers to make the campaigns worthwhile, or they won’t. If they do, sponsored tweets will survive. If users actually unite against them, they will fail.
The evidence suggests, however, that users will click and buy and sponsored tweets will be here to stay.
Unless Twitter itself cracks down because they want to preserve the revenue stream for themselves. But that’s a slippery slope — and a topic for another discussion.