Misleading Magpie Ads = Unfollow

A while back there was a minor uproar around the launch of Magpie, a Twitter-based service that offered to pay users in exchange for placing ads into their Twitter stream. Fast forward a few months – this weekend Read Write Web’s Marshall Kirkpatrick published an alarming post looking at some of the companies that have chosen to advertise through this service. Some of those listed include Apple, Skype, Flip, Box.net and others.

I don’t subscribe to the extreme view that Twitter must forever remain untainted by ads, however the nature of the ads that Kirkpatrick revealed is disturbing.

Apple ads on Magpie

Do you see what I see? I see ads worded to clearly imply the person in  whose stream they appear both purchased an Apple product and liked it.

In my eyes that’s misleading and deceptive. It hijacks the trust that people establish with others online and uses it to falsely recommend products.

One of the reasons that social media is so powerful is that people trust other people like themselves. These ads play on that trust and abuse it.

I’m trying to shy away from implying blanket rules for people using social media tools (one of the lessons I learned from the ghost twittering saga recently). So, rather than tell others what to do, I’ll tell you how I react.

If I see someone with Magpie-sponsored ads in their feeds, I start to feel I can’t trust what they say.

When I see companies like Apple, Flip and Skype using these tactics, I lose respect for them.

On either side, would you want people reacting to you that way?

As Marshall concludes, “to the advertisers out there – is this cynical scheme the best you can do to engage with all the new ways people are communicating online? That’s pretty bad.”

  • I totally agree with you. Companies try to use shortcuts in social media, not getting that it’s not something that will generate overnight results for them. I’d unfollow someone using Magpie too. It doesn’t make me lose respect for the company, just makes me think they’re clueless.

  • Are you sure that those companies are indeed using Magpie? Because iTV isn’t even a product that Apple sells (it’s called Apple TV). It’s very much out of Apple’s style, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find those links direct to resellers.

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  • Magpie stands against everything that we see in branding and marketing through social media.

    The sad thing is they see the numbers and it may even appear successful but they don’t realise the effect on their brand.

    I am an advocate for smart marketing via twitter but advertising definitely isn’t that.

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  • I want to preface this with the comment that I do not promote or condone these Magpie ads, but it might be wise to mention that these ads are likely not purchased by Apple, Flip and Skype directly.

    While I have not seen or clicked a link for any of these ads, I would suspect that these are being purchased by third party affiliates, looking to make a few dollars from the system through affiliate advertising links. This may be one reason that they are not using the correct names for products as they are outlawed by trademarks and the terms of their affiliate programs.

    So, to lose respect for these reputable companies would not be wise, but it certainly causes some questions to be asked about transparency of this advertising method (much like sponsored posts on blogs).

  • A very interesting blog post. What would you say was the most common problem?

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