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This article was published on June 29, 2010

The $50 Tweet And The Effect Of Selling Out Your Twitter Stream

The $50 Tweet And The Effect Of Selling Out Your Twitter Stream
Alex Wilhelm
Story by

Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

With all the world talking about Twitter’s new monetization system, it is easy to forget that thousands upon thousands of individual Twitter users have been monetizing their personal accounts on their own for quite some time.

A company called SponsoredTweets flashed across the tech world’s radar last August, right before I came to TNW, and I covered the company. Being the intrepid reporter and journalist that I am, I went through the paces and gave the company and its product a fair shake. I signed up, accepted an offer, and completed two sponsored tweets for a total of $13 or so. I documented the whole deal. This was the first paid tweet I sent, which is more than funny enough to share:

Once I had written my two stories I raised my “price for a tweet” to $50 and forgot about the service. I decided that at that price point no one would ever offer me a paid tweet opportunity. I was right, until today. I received a $50 offer for what at first seemed to be a single tweet. I was so tickled by the idea that any 140 characters of mine could possibly be worth such a ridiculous sum (I know the clickthrough rates of my tweets, and that is too much money), that I asked my Twitter friends what I should do. I have taken the time to collate their responses (the chronological order has been jumbled some):

Quite the mix of responses. Some people said yay, some people said nay, some people joked that I was a complete sellout, and others wanted the cash offer. Someone even offered to help start a collection to stop me from falling to the pull of the sponsored tweet. I was torn, the minute that it would take for me to accept the $50 offer would work out to an hourly rate of $3000. That is more than most people make, to put it plainly.

Then things changed, and I realized that Sponsored Tweets has gotten smarter in the nearly full year since I had last seen them. Right underneath the offer in my account on their website was a button that I do not recall seeing before:

Odd, I had no idea what that meant, and why would a sponsored tweet be sent out three times? This ‘ClickWatch’ technology is how SponsoredTweets keeps from having their advertisers being taken for a ride, which would have happened to this one if I had been paid $50 for one tweet. The clicks that their link would have received would have generated a cost per click rate that would have made even Google blush; the advertiser would have lost.

However, with ‘ClickWatch‘ if the cost per click is over $1.50 on the first tweet of the sponsor’s message, the tweet is sent out again from the user’s account. If it still doesn’t fall below that rate, it goes out again. So, this one tweet was going to be sent out three times over a multi-day period. I had two words for the idea: like hell.

Twitter is a community, and while some of your followers may tolerate the very, very rare paid tweet (judging by the reaction of my friends we saw before), they are not willing to take the same stuff three days running. I was really going to be paid $16.66 per message to tweet something once a day for three days. Not a chance.

So that in a nutshell is how paid tweets work for the moment, a smallish earnout that you pay a high price for in terms of credibility and influence. I do not think that any good reputation (something that we are all trying to garner) can withstand paid tweets in the current market.

Maybe I am wrong, but I can count on one hand the people that I follow who advertise in their tweets, and I follow more than 400 people. This cultural decision that we have made as a community may change in time, perhaps when payouts get better across the board, but for now the math just does not seem to add up. What do you think? Should I have taken the money?