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The Media The Internet

Paid Shilling Comes to Twitter 134

An anonymous reader alerts us that an outfit called Magpie is paying Twitter users to tout advertisers' products. Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb has identified a number of household-name companies — among them Apple, Skype, Kodak, Cisco, Adobe, Roxio, PC Tools, and — whose products are hyped by identically worded, paid Magpie tweets. But comments to Kirkpatrick's post, including one from a spokesman, make it sound likely that these shills were paid for not by the companies themselves, but by affiliate marketers. That may not matter. In the same way that Belkin recently got burned paying consumers to write complimentary online reviews about the company's products, the makers of products and services touted through Magpie may find themselves tainted in the backlash from this new form of astroturfing. Kirkpatrick concludes his post: "So there's the Twitter-sphere for you! Bring on 'real time search,' bring on a globally connected community, bring on vapid, vile, stupid shilling. It all seems pretty sad to me."
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Paid Shilling Comes to Twitter

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  • Twitter? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's already been here at slashdot for ages.
    • by Molochi ( 555357 )

      I've always hoped that most corporate fanboys are actually financially motivated (employees, stockholders, resellers, and paid shills) and feared that they were just dumbasses.

    • Twitter? I hardly know her!

  • Paid? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:47PM (#27544065) Journal

    I wouldn't pay one shilling to use twitter.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:53PM (#27544097) Homepage
    Whenever a new medium forms it does not take long for it to be colonized by marketers. In fact, it is a sign of how successful Twitter has been that it is being used in this way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )
      I don't even see how twitter is a new medium. It's just really short entries, right? Like YouTube comments.
      • New medium? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by patro ( 104336 )

        Twitter is a glamorized chat. I fail to understand why it's touted as something revolutionary.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by hwyhobo ( 1420503 )

          Because most people in the media are not smart enough to use Skype or YIM. Those are programs, therefore by definition they are too hard and too geeky to learn. The media automatons' $200 hairdos might overheat.

          • (or mIRC or others like it, for that matter)
          • Very few Twitter users use *just* the site. You can see where the "tweets" are coming from, and they're usually coming from apps (well, Air apps, anyway).

            I think that the reason most people use it is that you don't have to actually *know* anyone. You just sign up and "follow" (stalk) a bunch of people.

            • .. and if someone follows you it's optional to follow them - so the spam potential is low. Doesn't stop the spammers *trying* - they don't get it yet :p

              Email is just about dead now due to the spam problem , so you're left with SMS/MMS, Facebook (can they make that website any more cluttered?), or Twitter.

            • by SnowZero ( 92219 )

              While I do find Twitter moderately interesting as a service, pretty much everything you mentioned equally applies to IRC.

          • Twitter is not like Skype or IM at all. It's more like IRC but you can choose (mostly) who you associate with. It's also one of the first services that let you easily participate via client, web, SMS and included an API.

            It is a bit revolutionary in extending communication further.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by deadboy2000 ( 739605 )
          It's revolutionary in the same sense that big, patent-leather handbags (or whatever) are revolutionary. It's fashion, it's hype, it's a fad, it's the latest hottest thing that you have to be excited about right now or else you're just hopelessly lame.
    • Whenever a new medium forms it does not take long for it to be colonized by marketers. In fact, it is a sign of...

      ..the corporate destruction of free speech.

      Sometime last century, courts decided that commercial "speech" and money (in the form of bribes to politicians) is protected speech under the Constitution. Somehow, I don't think that's what Jefferson and Madison had in mind, but then again, neither are a standing army, conceal/carry, and electronic surveillance.

    • I agree totally. There's are new ad agencies being created in the U.K. and in the U.S. that will sue Twitter to promote their clients. Twitter Backlash ( has a post about it.
    • Whenever a new medium forms it does not take long for it to be colonized by marketers. In fact, it is a sign of how successful Twitter has been that it is being used in this way.

      And the easiest way to avoid it is to stop using it. Just as the easiest way to get rid of a lot of spam is to auto-reject email from any freemail servers, such as google, yahoo, or hotmail.

      There's a difference between Free (as in F/LOSS) and "free" as in "ad-supported." Advertising companies such as google and yahoo aren't just giving it away - there's a quid pro quo. Same applies to twitter, facebook, and all the other "we're free" crap.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:54PM (#27544109) Homepage
    There are already enough drooling brain dead fanboys for most of the companies going telling anyone willing to listen that their favourite product is the best ever. In fact if they want to compensate people for promotion, they'll probably do it for some cheap shitty little sticker of their favourite corporate logo.
    • Why would a company pay for a 'drooling brain dead fanboy' who wouldn't have much of an audience? Surely they'd only pay for someone with a lot of followers who has raised respect in the twitter-space already.
      • If they have any sense they won't shill the product because they'll likely lose that respect once it's discovered and I'm sure there are some respected fanboys out there. After all, Fox news is very biased and they have a large following. ;)
  • Personally, I don't care if my followers pitch me now and then, but

    a) mix it up. make the ratio one advert per 10 quality, humanistic, value-oriented tweets

    b) be transparent. Some of those magpie ads in the article were a little misleading I thought.

    b) be clever about it. I've never felt even remotely interested in any paid tweet because they're so crappy, or reduntant, or irrelevant.

    I have personally used magpie for advertising, and with success. It's not as potent as pay-per-click (ala Adwords) because the intent to purchase typically isn't there. That's why marketing on Facebook is such a lame idea. Brands are only getting inbetween conversations with loved ones. Not cool.

    Twitter has the advantage of having real-time search, so intent can be captured as it's happening [].

    You definitely can use contextual marketing on twitter and still look at yourself in the mirror each morning. You just gotta know how.

    • Apparently, you like 'b'?
    • How could a follower pitch to you? You'd have to be their follower for that to happen. That's why Twitter doesn't get any real spam... you have to ask for it, and marketers can't get over that hurdle.

    • I advertise on Facebook. CPC set at $0.60. CTR is miserable (WELL under 0.1%), but impressions is gigantic (200,000 per day average). Out of those who click through (let's say 140 per day average), I get at LEAST 5 orders. 3.6% conversion. Average order profit is over $100. So Facebook ads that cost me about $85 per day (on average) get me around $550 per day profit. For no additional marketing work on my part.

      I can pick sex (male, for my product), age (21-45), and even pick specific groups they're m

  • Start suing the ad sponsors. They are usually large companies.

    Just include a clause in the account startup agreement. Then go after the $$$. Could be profitable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's full of twittering twits who will twit their twits off about twittering twit.

  • Post Spamming... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ... should be disallowed.

    As a Level 4 at Apple's forums, whenever we mentioned a third party product or service to solve a posters problem, we had to disclose a disclaimer that we were not rewarded by the third party for the plug.

    As a moderator for another site, the site owner allowed post spamming and the result was a take over of the site by marketers and the normal posters soon vanished, the site later died.

    Posters want honest opinions and judgements from fellow posters and users, not targeted spam from

  • Twitter was a stupid waste of time already so this changes nothing.
  • Following a path of links from the article gets to the original research behind this [].

    From the comments on there it seems that the advertising is coming from affiliates, not from the companies themselves. This still makes it a problem for those who use Twitter, but it's a case of "MS Software cheap" or "Get a free MacBook Air"-style spam rather than the major companies themselves making use of this. Well, for the moment at least anyway.

    It's not the first time I've come across it - a recent Mac promo (M
  • by Redfeather ( 1033680 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:07PM (#27544207) Homepage

    Twitter's not just bad for this - oh my, a new form of spam, I never saw it coming - but for poor context community as well. I feed my Tweets to my blog in a widget (Geekiest phrase ever, I know) and, thus, am searchable. Now, I put up a "Legal" page about my site - claiming authorship and all - and immediately was added by nearly forty Law-oriented "Free Advice" Twits who likely had never read another of my posts. I changed the page's name from "Legal" to "Disclaimer" and the additions halted. Changing the page to "Copyright" had the same effect - media trolls, dozens of them, now on my block list. It's incredible.

    Twitter's nice for micro-posting, but seriously. This shilling thing? Been going on for some time. It's nothing new.

  • Ew. Twitter is so dumb. Go facebook! Besides who uses twitter anyways. So this, not even a big deal.
  • by eigenstates ( 1364441 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:28PM (#27544331)

    Am I really one of a rare few who find Twitter completely useless? The 'connection' of Twatter to follower is one borne of impersonal salesmanship. The Twatter doesn't feel that strong, real interpersonal relationship is worth their time yet they still want would be the reciprocal feelings of such a relationship. The follower thrives on being an enabler of those types of people. The worst (and probably most prevalent users) are the psychophants who follow only so others will follow them.

    The only problem I really see here is that since there seem to be an enormous amount of people who use this service now, internet advertisers are going to have a new round of completely bogus numbers to back up that 'advertising works on the internet'. "Look, potential client who has been terrified in to believing that the internet is a huge cash cow and you aren't milking that cow so hire me because I am an expert milker, our ad for ass ring fungal remover was a steath campaign on Senator Twatting Network it has a cumulative following of over a million followers so we potentially moved over a million units!"

    This means that decent content on the web will continue to be infected with this bogus logic attaching these disease ridden ads to their art because the guy who sold ass ring fungal remover to over a million people said we had to do it.

    • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:52AM (#27547707)

      Twitter is not useless. As a software developer I regularly check on Twitter what people say about my software. Dozens of improvements have been made thanks to feedback on Twitter. Many users also regularly check my tweets in order to be informed about software updates and other things that they might be interested in.

      • And email or a form online couldn't achieve this information exchange? I don't think I could do a useful bug report in 140 characters.

        And you couldn't have an auto updater (apt-get, whatever) that would keep your users from being tied to yet another piece of software to get your software? RSS is another fine method of informing people in near real time of updates.

        So, still, I view it as pretty useless given that there are equal and better ways of accomplishing the same tasks.

        • "And email or a form online couldn't achieve this information exchange? I don't think I could do a useful bug report in 140 characters."

          It could. But by asking this question you are already missing the point. Users choose to communicate via Twitter. I don't tell them to, but they still do. And yes this includes people who complain about bugs via Twitter. Twitter is a valuable source of bug reports because many of these people will most likely not have bothered posting a bug report if Twitter didn't exist.


          • It appears to me that the point being missed is on that screen over there.

            "Users choose to communicate via Twitter"

            You gave them that choice by signing up for an account and making information available in that fashion. If it weren't an option, users wouldn't use it. They would use a method you had chosen to implement- say, an email address or online form. Saying that they use it because they wouldn't have bothered otherwise is a speculative at best conclusion.

            "Users who chose not to subscribe to RSS," whic

            • "You gave them that choice by signing up for an account and making information available in that fashion. If it weren't an option, users wouldn't use it. They would use a method you had chosen to implement- say, an email address or online form."

              No. They were using Twitter long before I used it, and they will continue to use Twitter. They are the ones choosing to use Twitter, I didn't choose for them.

              I do not promote Twitter as the primary communication channel. In fact, most of my Twitter messages only cont

  • by marshalium ( 1466239 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:31PM (#27544355)
    Except for Twitter.
  • 60% of UK consumers are willing to browse with an ad-blocker in return for free videos, music and other content, a survey has revealed.

    "This willingness to pretend to view adverts in exchange for free content is good news for sites wanting to lie to advertisers," said Tudor Aw at KPMG, "and is perhaps a pointer in the ongoing debate over whether lying to advertisers or lying to subscribers is the right revenue model."

    40% of respondents said they would pretend to accept popups, popunders, interstitials,

  • MacHeist just recently sold a bundle of cheap software, and if you twatted the bundle deal you got an additional two programs free. An interesting tactic, though I'll bet that annoyed a lot of people.

  • meh (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    And this is exactly why I recently switched to [] which is a FOSS/public domain version of twitter that an increasing number of geeks are switching to. Twitter is *so* five minutes ago.
  • Payola commentary [] has been around for a while. Why would Twitter be different from big shot pundits []?
  • Wait, I don't understand.
    If I come to Twitter, they will pay me one Shilling?

  • I'm Shocked (Score:5, Funny)

    by honestmonkey ( 819408 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @05:21PM (#27544603) Journal
    I am shocked about this, I tell you, shocked. I was so upset I had to go sit in my La-z-boy recliner and drink a nice, refreshing glass of Lipton iced tea.
    • forgot...

      "..while reading J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, published by Bloomsbury, on my Amazon Kindle"
  • Twitter reminds me of hearing people shout to each other in a crowded place, making sure to make not-so-vague references to how cool they are.

    @chad: My cell phone cam sux so u can't tell I'm wearing that $200 T-shirt

    @all: Anybody know where I can pick up some gaiters? I'm doing Mt. McKinley this weekend

    @cybercheese: I know what you mean. I use Gentoo too, and it totally rocks

    (which are all lies, of course)
  • by stereoroid ( 234317 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @05:57PM (#27544783) Homepage Journal

    I see the typical "I'm too hip for Twitter" comments are out. The system makes more sense if you use a little moderation - a bit like Slashdot, when it comes to it:
      - the home page only shows tweets from the people you're following. Messaged from Spammers don't appear unless you Followed them.
      - So, you have control over what comes up and who you see. If you want to see interesting tweets, follow interesting people.
      - if someone Follows you, you are under no obligation to Follow them in return. If they don't look interesting or relevant to you, don't Follow them.
      - Ignore people who Follow you with the aim of building a Follower count. Not your problem.
      - Be selfish. It's your time and attention, and no-one else has an automatic right to any of it.

    One of my friends is about start on a motorbike trip around the world, and Twitter means he can post quick blog updates from Outer Mongolia or wherever he happens to have a few minutes to spare. For that application, it's like SMS texting to a group of people instead of one phone number. Nothing wrong with Twitter if you use it sensibly, as much as it suits you.

    • Quite a few developers use Twitter. It's a good way to stay on top of things within a certain field, and/or collaborate.

      Keeping up that "too cool for school" attitude means that you could lose out on some of the very useful, and even productive, aspects of the service.

      Here's a simple rule to start you off with: If someone tweets "I'm eating a sandwich", unfollow them.

    • Also.. if someone follows you and you don't like them (spammer, or simply don't like them), it's one click to block them to stop them following you ever again.

      The spam potential on twitter is low to nonexistent, provided you're not stupid with it.

      If you have friends who retweet the 'latest' offers because they believe they'll get something for it.. they're probably the same type that would forward 'virus warning' emails to you twice a week anyway. Just unfollow them (wish you could do that with email).

    • by Stiletto ( 12066 )

      I don't see how Twitter is all that different than IRC. The only thing it's got going for itself, really, is that it appeals to the beret-wearing Web 2.0 crowd.

      • by pod ( 1103 )

        It puts a number of things together that make it more usable than, say, blogs. For shooting off quick updates to your friends on where you are or what you are doing, it's great. Just text your message, or log in somewhere for 2 minutes, and you're done. It also offers a great deal of control over who has access to your messages. Sure, you can do some or all of these things by throwing a bunch of customized stuff at Facebook or a blog, but Twitter does it for you, and "everyone is using it", so it has good e

    • Too hip? May be I am too 'dumb' to use it?

      In any case, I think this video summarizes it very well. []
  • by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:12PM (#27544873) Homepage

    that when we get inundated with the same message again and again, it turns people Off on the product?

    It alienates me at any rate, and particularly so if its endorsement type advertisement, since those usually have no actual information in them and usually feature actors hired to say their lines, ie they are lying.

    I more or less ignore ads, I bypass them when I read them in the newspaper, or in a magazine. I speed past them with my PVR when I am watching TV, and I mute them if I can't bypass them. Oh I know the rule is to reach a consumer as many ways as possible and that in theory that is more likely to make them buy your product, but I think its backfiring these days because we see far too many ads.

    Marketers: I am not interested in your product, whatever the fuck it is. If I want something I will go research it myself, read honest reviews (if I can find any, harder and harder these days), and then decide if I really need the product. If I do, I go buy it, if its crappy or I don't need it, I don't buy it. I buy virtually nothing based on seeing an advertisement as far as I can tell. I often specifically avoid products I can recall seeing Ads for because 99% of them are more irritating than informative, and they all seem to be based on outright lying about a product. For the most part if I can recall your ad, I won't buy your product, because if I can recall your ad, I have likely seen it so many times it makes me want to puke

    I am exposed to so much media and have so many people trying to grab my attention that I more or less ignore them all

    This onslaught of media screaming - Capitalist Propaganda if you wish - is tiring, and only pisses me off. I am sure I am not alone.

    Now, products I do like I am more than willing to support in discussions with my friends and fellow workers, but I would never stoop so low as to become a shill for the company that made them.

    One of the only upsides to Communism I can think of was there was almost no marketing and advertising. Shakespeare had it wrong, the firs thing we do is shoot all the marketers :P

    • by rts008 ( 812749 )

      Well said. That is exactly my reaction also.

      For the most part if I can recall your ad, I won't buy your product, because if I can recall your ad, I have likely seen it so many times it makes me want to puke

      The extremely rare instances of me buying a product I can remember seeing an ad for, the purchase was not due to the ad, it will always be something I have already researched or have prior experience with. Pure coincidence.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    likely that these shills were paid for not by the companies themselves, but by affiliate marketers

    This is the kind of thing every shady company says. My company uses the affiliate excuse all the time to cover their asses for all the shady marketing they do themselves. Our company directs users to our websites by spamming users' cell phones with text messages from fake "friends" who want the recipient to join the website.

    Of course, this spamming/scamming is done in-house. But whenever someone comes complaini

  • It's not always obvious when an account is a shill on twitter.

    For instance, did you know that the twitter account memcached [] is a shill for a company named Gear6 [] rather than an official twitter by the memcached team or Danga Interactive []'s owner, Sixapart []?

  • Any sort of media will be appropriated by advertising for their paid shills.
  • by TheCabal ( 215908 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @09:25PM (#27545761) Journal

    Any medium will be used for advertising. It's pure naivety to believe that your precious Twitter will remain pure and unsullied.

    • While drinking my ice-cold Pepsi Cola on my Samsung R100 "Lifestyle Media" laptop I thought your comment was insightful.

  • Well, I *already* hate these companies exactly for these kinds of dirty tricks so its business as usual.

  • that this crappy behaviour probably works against them more than for them in terms of sales.

  • This is one of the many dutires I had before I was laid off. I also shilled on Facebook. Explaining the Fail Whale to my boss made it all worth it.
  • According to this article [] by Peter Cohen from Macworld, Macheist beat them to it. Macheist gave their members free Mac applications if they would tweet about the Macheist bundle.
  • "So there's the Twitter-sphere for you! Bring on 'real time search,' bring on a globally connected community, bring on vapid, vile, stupid shilling. It all seems pretty sad to me."

    And nothing of value was lost?

  • I hope those ads don't overflow the 140 character memory space their poor little brains have.

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