Twitter Sells Out

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Twitter used to be just a tool for connecting people and disseminating information across an easy-to-use platform. The free service then became a springboard for businesses to reach out to customers in a unique, intimate way. Now, Twitter has sold out and transformed itself into a brothel of advertising opportunities for those willing to shred credibility for the purposes of mass distribution. Sponsored Tweets are here.

Sponsored Tweets, which allow advertisers to create "sponsored conversations" on Twitter, has been in the works since June , but the service just launched yesterday. Run by IZEA, a company that specializes in advertising via social networks, the service lets businesses pay "celebrities" to tout their product or personality.

Advertisers can select, invite, and approve Twitterers, and those users earn money for spreading the word. If you sell toothpaste and want Carrot Top to electronically brush his teeth with your product, you pay Carrot Top -- with his inexplicable 2,600+ followers -- and he'll do just that.

There are many checks and balances embedded in Sponsored Tweets. For instance, you can charge per tweet or per click; set a content rating; establish notification settings; add keywords; and much more. There is also a disclosure engine that guarantees the appropriate hashtags or text is used.

The concept of paid Twitter accounts is not new. Earlier this year, it was reported that Twitter plans to roll out paid premium accounts for businesses. Sponsored Tweets tugs the concept one step further, and in a bad way.

But I don't like it. Imagine the sound of your credibility being flushed down the toilet as soon as you sign up for this service. People will see through the ruse, witness the strings holding up the puppet, and believe that you as a company or "personality" have no shame.

Sponsored Tweets -- and services like it -- are damaging Twitter's already bruised reputation by turning it into an advertising spam-fest rather than an innovative tool connecting people. And while I understand using one's influence to tout products -- it's been happening since the birth of advertising -- it strikes me that Twitter, with its grassroots beginnings, is simply the wrong place for this.

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