Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Twitter's Trending Topics Reinforce User's Love Of Mainstream Media

Big media still rules when it comes to Twitter, it seems. Hewlett-Packard researchers have been looking into where Twitter's Trending Topics come from, and the answer may be somewhat depressing to those convinced that the internet is all about democraticizing information. According the HP report, Trending

Topics are all about the retweets, with as high as 31% of a TT consisting of retweets instead of original content. They're also shortlived, with the average length of time they remain popular being less than 40 minutes, and tend to come from mainstream media sources; in a 40-day period, 72% of the most popular - and retweeted - tweets came from media outlets like CNN, the New York Times and the BBC (which, to some degree, makes sense - People are still attuned to repeat what they consider comes from some voice of authority, such as media institutions), a finding that mirrors the recent GlobalWebIndex Wave report that suggested that the internet was turning users back into passive consumers, instead of producers in their own right. Obviously, Twitter needs to be stopped before it's too late.

Brands that want a little piece of that sweet Twitter action are going to have to pay a little extra in the future, if rumors about Twitter increasing the cost of "promoted trend" ads by tens of thousands of dollars are true. According to the All Things Digital blog, Twitter has started telling buyers that the price of a one-day stint at the top of the Trending Topics bar will go from between $70,000-$80,000 to $100,000-$120,000. Considering the spots have been continually selling out since their introduction last year, it's unlikely that the price bump will cause anyone to blink. But the news that the company is thinking of doing a similar increase for its less-successful Promoted Accounts program might. Looks like Twitter is serious about tripling its revenue this year, and potentially without its users - most of whom ignore Promoted Trends or Accounts quite easily - even noticing.

When actress Elizabeth Hurley tweets that she loves a specific Estee Lauder product, she could be getting paid the big bucks to say so. Since the actress has been the face of the brand for over 15 years, it seems like quite the coincidence that every once and awhile she gives Estee Lauder shout out. Although the FTC ruled late last year that endorsed tweets in the U.S. must be clearly labeled, no such mandate exists in Hurley's native England. Or at least, not yet. The UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has begun cracking down on deceptive endorsed tweets, starting with its attack on PR company Handpicked Media. The OFT said in a statement that "online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid for promotions are deceptive under trading laws."

This crackdown would put tweets like Hurley's in jeopardy of punishment, since the actress neither mentions the companies she endorses on her twitter page nor adds the hashtag #ad to her endorsed tweets.But full disclosure of endorsed tweets doesn't mean the end to twitter advertising. Stateside celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Snoop Dogg still rake in thousands (up to $10,000 and $3,000 respectively) to tweet about a product, even with the #ad hashtag.

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