Is Twitter Taking Our Twitter away? The Lowdown on Promoted Tweets

The whole point of social media is to enable an egalitarian type of community that can engage on anything and everything through equal access. Every user possesses the same power to converse, to engage and build influence. That is of course until Twitter introduced Promoted Tweets (insert silent curse here). Promoted Tweets (PTs) are advertising-by-tweets that place brands and businesses’ tweets ahead of ordinary people’s tweets. PTs appear as priority tweets on organic search results and on ordinary people’s timelines. So the question is, do PTs detract from the Twitter experience or are they a value-add?

Personally, I hate ads in my apps for social media networks – I would rather pay extra for an ad-free app. I find them a little intrusive especially in my personal space such as my phone where I access Twitter. PTs are ads and I find that their placement on Twitter takes away from my social experience. Twitter is the one network where I speak in 140 with friends and acquaintances and even meet new incredible characters without any commercial disturbances. PTs have not changed that utility but they have the package with which I access utility.

Within search results, Twitter PTs appear on the search results as if the content is organic. The fact that a tweet is promoted, for me, reduces its credibility in terms of interactional courtesy. There is no fair play in being heard and in engaging with others. This tips the scale and means that he/ she who has money becomes louder, and for social media, this should not be the case. Social media has been something of a Utopia for communication and interaction between people themselves, and with other entities.


There is a feeling of commercialization that comes with PTs and that feeling has never been there for me in Twitter because there wasn’t any advertising on my timeline to date. Now, the advertising is ‘informed’ by one’s engagement so that the PTs that appear on your timeline are ‘relevant’ to you. PTs in my timeline feel like you are at a hangout, enjoying interacting with friends and a hawker keeps coming to offer his products to you throughout. And furthermore, this hawker keeps coming because he is convinced that he/she knows what you want and will continue to put his/ her product in your face. It becomes more annoying than good.

But for brands, does it do any good? I do not think so. The secret to the success of brands on Twitter is based on how human the brands seem. The way a brand interacts with you in the most humanly way possible, one that would make you feel like you are conversing with a friend rather than conglomerate, makes it more successful on social media. Now if brands use PTs to converse with their fans, it becomes like a friend who talks to you with a megaphone and this does not end well. PTs are loud, they are everywhere (not in a good way) and they completely defeat the purpose of interactional courtesy through asserting a human face for brands.

Next week we’ll certainly look at what PTs mean for Twitter as a business model. Otherwise for now, anyone know a Twitter app for iOS that ignores Promoted Tweets? I’d love to have my Twitter back!