Posted by Jesse Braunstein

Twitter and Politics: Candidates and committees to purchase full suite of Promoted Products. Is it artificial social media and fake viral? Yes, and we don’t like it… here’s why:

Let’s face it; nobody likes a sellout.

And after I enjoyed the combo of seriousness and witticism (great work @parislemon), in TechCrunch’s article titled “This Tweet Has Been Approved By… Political Ads Hit Twitter”, I wanted to lend a hand and put in my own two-cents.

For those of you, who don’t know, let’s do a quick dissection of Twitter itself and then we’ll move on to the points about the politics.

Twitter

  • Founded in 2006, Twitter has seen extreme growth, with 200 million users by 2011.
  • It has a current Alexa ranking of 9 and had expected revenue of $140 million in 2010
  • It is basically designed as an online SMS service; allowing you to send a max of 140 characters at once
  • You can “Follow” those you’re interested in and others can “Follow” you (Lady GaGa ;@ladygaga, currently has 13,719,666 “Followers”!)
  • Twitter’s recent addition of the “Promoted” AdWords style feature has been a huge source of revenue

Politics

Twitter recently said that; “Effective immediately, candidates and their political committees will be able to purchase Twitter’s full suite of Promoted Products, including Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends.”

Now personally, I understand the value of Social Media; and Facebook and Twitter in particular as powerful interfacing tools for every type of person/group/organization imaginable. It allows individuals to get a more personal and interactive feel for something they are considering supporting, while allowing those who want support to reach out and become more approachable.

That being said, I believe that any sort of self-promotion through these services should be handled naturally as opposed to artificially.

The term “sellout”, is commonly used to describe someone in the arts; such as a favorite band who is willing to sell their song (insert “soul” here), to a Coca Cola commercial.

But Urban Dictionary (a post-worthy site in their own right), begs to differ. Urban defines a sellout as “the perception that your pursuit of popularity and potentially making money has caused you to sacrifice your core values.”

I challenge you to find a more spot on definition.

From an economics perspective; I can completely rationalize Twitter’s choice from both sides of the table. It’s a win-win. On the one hand, Twitter will make more profit because political candidates will feel obliged to sign up for ad space as a way to keep up with the competition. And on the other, political candidates will get exposure to a huge database of age-worthy voters.

But with all of this in mind, it is crucial that we scrutinize Twitter’s decision, as well as that of the political candidates:

Is it cool for Democrats and Republicans to start paying to get “Followers”?

Do we want to “Follow” those who are paying for support, or should we only give our interest and time to those who are able to garner support based on their own Klout?

What I like so much about Twitter is that it seems that the most interesting, entertaining, fun, and “Follow”-worthy people out there are those that have a knack for getting “Followers” because they are so damn likeable.

I’d hate to see that change…

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  • http://twitter.com/ElizabethBoylan Elizabeth Boylan

    I was reflecting on Twitter  and how it seems many users are following accounts that aren’t necessarily a reflection of sincere core values and wrote ‘Twitter Klout and Padded Bras’ on my personal blog. It appears that far too many people are willing to sell out on Twitter or Facebook and compromise their core values for short term gain and popularity. 

    The whole point with Twitter is when you come across an account with a mass following, it should be because that following was earned by genuine likability or respect and not paid for. In this regard paid for ‘promoted’ tweets are like plastic surgery.When it comes to politicians though, their twitter strategy to promote their tweets and pay for followers is another affirmation of how the very nature of politics is based on selling out in order to win popularity. We would like our politicians to be activists but in actuality their mouth pieces for corporate interests. They’re actors.

    • http://shebytes.com Renee Schmidt

      Exactly!

      While I really enjoy following those who garner respect via their personality or coolness, I just don’t see the point in following politicians who are on a PPF (pay-per-follow) setup…