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.”

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.