If you’re a devoted Mad Man and hemorrhaging money, you can now dictate to over 160 million Twitter users what is cool and important. Promoted Trends, Twitter’s new sniper shot at turning a profit, leaps beyond traditional advertising into the ridiculous. Advertisers create hubbub about their product or service, propel it to the top of Twitter’s trending topics list, and essentially create the nucleus (or illusion) of popularity for only $100,000 per day.
- Promoted Tweets: Though each are clearly labeled as “promoted,” Promoted Tweets are bought by advertising partners of Twitter and pushed to the forefront of the search-results page. For example, if you are Starbucks and you buy the word “coffee,” the next time coffee is searched for, you’ll appear on top of the mound.
- Promoted Accounts: Similarly, Promoted Accounts analyzes a regular user’s account followers on Twitter and suggests others to follow. All you gotta do is buy the slot. Again, the word “promoted” is highlighted, so you know you’re following a leader, but hungry tweeters looking to fatten their follower numbers may not see the ploy at first.
- Promoted Trends: Trending topics are an essential organ in Twitter. The more people who hashtag a word—usually a meme like Follow Friday or Lady Gaga—the more prominent that hashtag becomes on Twitter’s homepage.
We’ve known for years that our thoughts and ideas could be snatched and commercialized, but Twitter’s new thrust is symbolically different than its other two forms of promotion. Promoted Accounts and Tweets are relegated to faces and search terms; Trends is the artificial origin of popularity. It’s like buying culture at a greasy sausage cart outside Fenway Park (and puking it up in an alleyway 20 minutes later).
It’d be totally unfair (and flamingly stupid) of me to say that Twitter should not be filling its coffers. After all, we’re a capitalist society, and for years Twitter hasn’t made much from its services. It only last year pulled a profit.
Recently, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams stepped down as CEO, bringing in COO Dick Costolo to shift gears toward generating profits. Though the company hasn’t won great success thus far, it’s still in an experimental phase—and it could win over a fat pocket as long as it’s still taken seriously by big businesses.
That said, it’s my opinion that Twitter users should view Promoted Trends as the most laughable form of suggestive selling out there. It’s borderline offensive. Big pockets are telling us what’s trendy? Aren’t we the creators of trends? Isn’t it our dollars that make or break companies, or turn things like blood-blotched skinny jeans into criteria of societal belonging?
Maybe it’s just me and my astrological bent that hates to be told what to do and how to think. But Promoted Trends flows like low-rent duck sauce, and should, when seen, be scrutinized with antipathy. If we buy into this scheme, it’s sending to advertisers an unflattering portrait of ourselves.