And we took a look at one of them. This week, the Associated Press decided to sell sponsored tweets during the annual CES tech trade show on its @AP Twitter account. A lot of blogs and news outlets discussed the ads, but actual engagement with the sponsored tweets was quite low. Here’s one of the tweets in question:
This sponsored tweet from Samsung got a total of – wait for it – 15 retweets. The activity leveled off rather quickly; 12 of the 15 retweets happened immediately, followed by two in the next hour, and the final straggler the following morning. Then nothing else. There wasn’t very much lasting traction to this tweet, as seen below:
The tweet did generate a total reach of 1,584,824 unique Twitter accounts, but that’s really not much more than the 1,538,203 followers the @AP account itself had at the time of the tweet. A quick look at the top contributors might account for the reason: @AP was the top contributor, followed by @HuffPostMedia and a Japanese Global Media Studies Professor. It would make sense for multiple accounts to follow most or all three of these contributors, as they’re all journalism-related accounts, but it didn’t result in much additional spread of the original ad.
The reach for everyone talking about AP’s sponsored tweets was much higher, with nearly 550 tweets from more than 500 contributors in the past few days, reaching 4.3 million different Twitter accounts. The activity, however, still dropped off rather quickly:
Everyone is talking about the AP selling their tweets (or they were), but the interaction with the sponsored tweets themselves remained low. The three sponsored tweets were only retweeted 21, 15 and 14 times respectively. There were far tweets with more opinions on the subject than actual RTs: opinions tacked onto RTs of articles about it, occasionally added in front of an AP retweet, or sent out and tagged with the AP’s handle. Some, however, went for a more direct route.
Replies to AP about their sponsored tweets were not terribly positive:
They were about as snarky as some of the news and blog coverage was. But why?
Perhaps because people think that as a news source, the AP should remain neutral, and maybe particularly on Twitter, a platform that is poised to become the go-to place for breaking news even more than it already is for its heavy users.
Looking at the data on the entire discussion around AP sponsored tweets seems to back up that idea. Here are a few examples:
The opinion that a major, historically trusted news source should remain neutral might explain why people are upset over the AP selling sponsored tweets, but haven’t been in the past when celebrities have done the same thing (there’s even a company set up exclusively for celebrities or other popular Twitter personalities that want to endorse products on Twitter). Celebrities are expected to supplement their income with product endorsements, and are not followed or revered for their journalistic integrity.
Sponsored tweets aren’t anything new – Mashable wrote an article saying just that back in 2009 – so the amount of attention and news being generated by the AP selling tweets has been puzzling to some. Others, whether or not they’ve paid much attention to it before, simply see it as an expected form of native advertising. Different from the Promoted Tweets that Twitter launched in April of 2010, sponsored tweets are a deal between a vendor and a celebrity or other well-known figure with a large Twitter following, with Twitter getting nothing out of the deal, except perhaps to say that advertising works on its platform.
Former member of The Pussycat Dolls Nicole Scherzinger and a sponsored tweet for Herbal Essences… A little different than the AP and Samsung, or so response would seem to indicate.
Let us know what you think in the comments.