It appears that Twitter is experimenting with selling ad space in users’ lists of accounts they follow, reports Marketing Land.
Actor William Shatner made a noise about it a little while ago, tweeting that he noticed that MasterCard’s account began showing up on his own Following list, even though he didn’t actually follow the credit card company on Twitter.
Shatner also mentioned that fellow actor Dwayne Johnson’s Following list included MasterCard — even though Johnson only follows one user (Muhammad Ali), as his ‘following’ count indicates.
Other users, who aren’t celebrities, also noted the appearance of Mastercard and other accounts showing up in their Following lists.
Twitter’s Follower Campaign ads promote brands across Timelines, Who to Follow suggestions and search results, but this is the first time it has used space in Following lists.
Shatner tweeted to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and the company’s Safety account that this could be misleading:
The move could also cause promoted accounts to appear in a rival brand’s Following list. It’s already happened with Mastercard on Visa’s account:
It looks like Twitter has now taken down these ads from the aforementioned accounts.
We’ve contacted Twitter about these ads and will update the post when we hear more.
Update: It seems showing promoted accounts in follower lists is not new; TNW has learned that Twitter has been doing so since early 2013.
This is somewhat odd, however: Twitter doesn’t mention follower lists as one of the locations for promoted accounts to appear in its own support pages for marketers. Instead, it only notes the aforementioned Timelines, Who to Follow sections and search results as ad space.
This particular variety of promoted ads are now nowhere to be seen, so Twitter may have reconsidered its strategy. Although promoted accounts are marked as such, it’s quite easy to not notice the label when quickly glancing through someone’s followers.