Conflicted About Ad.ly

Ad.lyBrowsing through my Google Reader feed this evening, a story in the New York Times caught my eye. The story was about ad.ly – a relatively new service that pays Twitter users to insert advertisements into their Twitter stream.

In the piece, Brad Stone gives a reasonable outline of the service, which counts “celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Dr. Drew and the musician Ernie Halter” among its customers. It also includes a quote from Robert Scoble:

““It interferes with your relationship with your friends and your audience,” said Robert Scoble, a technology blogger with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, who says he “unfollows” people on Twitter who send him ads.”

Checking the site, ad.ly also counts Darren Rowse, Jason Calacanis, Jeremiah OwyangBrian Solis and Gnomedex founder Chris Pirillo among its users.

I’ve made my feelings about advertising services on Twitter known in the past. Notably, I got a little upset when some advertisers started posting misleading ads through a service called Magpie back in April this year.

However, I feel a little conflicted about this story.

Pros

Money on the side

Ad.ly lets Twitter users generate additional income with little effort.

Control the ads

Users have full control over the messages that are posted – they approve every message posted through their account.

Disclosure

Every message, according to the site, is disclosed as an ad:

“The end of every Ad.ly tweet (except tweets for charity) is marked with “(Ad)” notifying your audience that this is an advertisement. In order to ensure authenticity, every Ad.ly Tweet has to be explicitly approved by the Twitter publisher and is disclosed as an ad.”

Cons

Hijacking your connections

People don’t follow you to hear about the services that pay you to broadcast their messages. They follow to hear about the things YOU like. Still, I don’t watch TV to check the ads out there, but I do watch them. That said, I don’t like it.

While I don’t recoil to the same extent as others (Shannon Boudjema outlines her concerns succinctly here), I still feel uneasy about the concept.

Social media becoming unsocial

Ad.ly inserts ads into your Twitter stream. It’s traditional media piggy-backing on social media. There’s a disconnect between the “push” mechanism in use and the two-way nature of the medium.

Gut

Logic aside, something just doesn’t feel right for me. I have nothing to back this up – perhaps it’s because I don’t consider monetizing my Twitter followers often, but it sits wrong with me.

Bottom line

In case you can’t tell, I’m finding this one tough. Most of the solid logic points to the idea being reasonable, especially given that the Tweets are both approved by users and disclosed as ads. Still, I can’t bring myself to consider using it.

The logic is there, but… there’s a but. but it doesn’t feel right for me. I can’t put my finger on this one.

What do you think?

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