Next month, new FTC rules will go into affect that mandate increased transparency among payments to bloggers in exchange for mentions -- because the FTC feels gifts and payments to bloggers is basically a new form of advertising.
Of course, companies can provide gifts and payments to bloggers but still can't control the actual content, tone, timing, etc.
Meanwhile, the New York Times ran an interesting article about sponsored tweets, "A Friend’s Tweet Could Be an Ad." Startups like Ad.ly, Like.com, Izea and Peer2 offer ways for celebrities and regular people can insert sponsored statements and get paid for doing so.
From a Tweeter's perspective, I certainly understand the desire to monetize one's following. And from a marketer's perspective, I certainly understand the desire to tap the credibility of people so as to conduct a word-of-mouth initiative.
But it raises some key questions.
For example, some services ensure that any sponsored tweet includes either #ad or #sponsor. But it's not clear that every service does that.
Credibility is important, but it's not clear, yet, what the impact of including sponsored tweets will have on followers. Even without sponsored tweets, there's been some controversy, including around Guy Kawasaki and certain mainstream celebrities, who uses tweets prepared by others including personal assistants.
And the impact on marketers is also unclear. Will people resent those companies that are using Twitter in this obvious, harder sell way? The Times quotes Peer2 co-founderJoey Caroni, who said, “We don’t want to create an army of spammers, and we are not trying to turn Facebook and Twitter into one giant spam network. All we are trying to do is get consumers to become marketers for us.”
I understand that goal, but that is asking a lot...to get consumers to become marketers for them.
If those services don't require some designation that a tweet is sponsored, I would expect the FTC to start requiring disclosure here.
But I also think this approach, while it generates a way to make money from having a strong followers, is more of an old-style, offline, one-way sell because it does not truly engage followers. From that perspective, I think sponsored tweets is really a Web 1.0 approach.