Marketing in Twitter: Applicants Must Have 250 Bots or More

It seems I can’t post anything to Twitter recently without suddenly gaining a follower. “What a braggart!” you might say (brilliant word braggart) but this really isn’t a boast. These apparent followers are nothing more than bots, trawling the twitterverse for keywords and automatically following people that use them.

This isn’t that new in Twitter but its frequency – at least anecdotally for me – is becoming much more prominent. For example I recently posted a reply to a follower about books and how they should all have a digital equivalent. Searching for a quote in a book is much quicker when its digital. It appears simply this use of the word ‘Book’ got me a new follower. Hurrah, new found internet fame!

In actuality the follower was simply a bot for a user that was attempting to get individuals to talk about their favourite book. A worthwhile pursuit perhaps, but not exactly an individual interested in me. However I have also gathered other less altruistic followers , law firms simply from discussing IP law, book publishers who picked up on my complaints about the publishing industry and even a brooklyn wedding DJ after tweeting about visiting a wedding venue (which is about 3,445 miles from Brooklyn).

In all honesty (probably killing my internet cred here) I’d say about 85% of my followers on Twitter followed me not because they think I have something interesting to say, but simply because I used the right words and their bot picked me up as a potential customer

The capitalist urge to market and profit has obviously found its way into Twitter, and there are already seminars and courses on how to utilise Twitter for your business. US electronics retailer Best Buy even makes 250 Twitter followers a requirement of their applicants to marketing jobs, whether they count bots or not is unknown. What I find primarily interesting about this is the cycle of innovation and capitalist co-option. I’m sure many were drawn to Twitter for its open nature, the simplicity to talk with people you’d never meet otherwise. This however is also what brought marketing to it, and in a way it’s perhaps making Twitter a little less appealing to some. MySpace appears to be dying off since the News Corp purchase, the primary mainstay being bands using it as a marketing platform. Facebook, already swamped with applications has now reached a massive audience but with audience comes adverts and third party marketing which may be chasing off the early adopters.

This of course is not meant to be an anti-capitalist rant, these services need financial support in some way or another and it appears that advertising has become the primary source for supporting net services. According to the OECD, advertising agencies worldwide pulled in $445 billion USD in 2007 from selling internet advertising slots. These were primarily search based pay-per click and placement such as banner and sidebar ads. However the OECD also noted a rise in ‘behavioural advertising’, what could also be called taste targeted or algorithmic. This was two years ago (20 in internet time) so we’re forced to simply imagine how this has changed by now. However with so many ‘recommendation’ systems (iTunes,, Amazon, Facebook ads etc) it has become apparent that we should perhaps get used to paying for these services with information about ourselves… oh I just got another bot.

How to DRM the News?

It’s generally possible to lock down a media such as music or video because it requires equipment to actually play it. This is how many DRM systems work, by having security measures in both the media and the media player (Cory Doctorow gives a great run-down of how this system will always make DRM crackable).

What about news though? Twitter is becoming somewhat a secondary newswire these days, with media outlets cobbling together stories from information picked up off of Twitter, ‘breaking’ the story hours after the Twitterverse has moved on. This can also work in the other direction:  Twitter can spread one factoid to thousands within minutes and could be the BitTorrent of news in a world where news is a paid for commodity.

If I paid to access the information behind the WSJ pay-wall, does that make that information private? If I reveal some of that information to others on the web is that theft of content, or copyright infringement? Granted if I lifted the thing verbatim and reposted it onto my cleverly named then fair enough, but what if I just found something interesting and quoted it, or discussed some figures that I saw. At what point am I giving too much of the subscriber content away to be fair use?

From the publisher’s perspective, do you control this? If so then how? Do you try to enforce some sort of screening algorithms to pick up on anyone writing something too close to your protected content? Or do you allow it in the hope that it will drive more traffic and more customers to the originating article? If you see it as viral marketing then how much should you allow out, and is there an issue if so much talk is generated that the whole article is essentially available in pieces anyway? How do you lock down something that is communicable across so many different platforms (and if we really have to, then without a technical platform at all)? The whole endeavour seems impossible. I hope it is.


European publishers want a law to control online news access – Ars Technica

Why Did the World Economy Fail?…

… because our financial institutions are run by people that think the musings of a 15 year old work experience kid constitutes groundbreaking demographic research.

A research note written by a 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern that described his friends’ media habits has generated a flurry of interest from media executives and investors.

The US investment bank’s European media analysts asked Matthew Robson, an intern from a London school, to write a report on teenagers’ likes and dislikes, which made the Financial Times’ front page today.

His report, that dismissed Twitter and described online advertising as pointless, proved to be “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it”, said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team.

Twitter is not for teens, Morgan Stanley told by 15-year-old expert