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Betraying trust as a business model

I’ve found out I can become a ‘premium influencer’ on Twitter.

Right now MyLikes, a self described ‘word-of-mouth advertising platform,’ thinks I’m an influencer. Apparently this comes from sharing on Twitter information I believe is helpful to others. No question the more news, commentary and insight of others that I share with people on Twitter, the more people with similar interests who follow me on Twitter.

Until tonight though I never thought of becoming a ‘premium influencer’ by having advertisers pay me for sharing their adds with people who come have to trust me on Twitter. Trust I established by sharing information I thought my Twitter followers would find helpful or interesting.

Excuse me if I don’t understand what social media is all about, but I find the concept outlined in the below email I received from Michelle Matheus, the Marketing Manager for MyLikes, pretty disgusting.

Hello,

I am writing from MyLikes, an ex-Google social media/twitter advertising company that connects influencers on the web to advertisers. I wanted to send you an invite to be a premium influencer on MyLikes.

This is an invite-only program that allows power Twitter users such as yourself, to make money by creating Sponsored Likes/ads for advertisers you choose and post them to Twitter. You get to set a price per tweet and accept / reject advertiser offers and write your own Sponsored Likes/tweets. The minimum payout is extremely low ($2) and you get paid weekly through PayPal. You can signup at:

http://mylikes.com/p

Let me know if you need any help in signing up for this program.

Thanks,

Michelle.

http://mylikes.com/about

Why disgusting Michelle?

  • When I share genuinely valuable information with people who trust me, it’s repulsive to think I’d ‘slide in’ information I wouldn’t share otherwise, but do so because I was being paid by some company who doesn’t care about trust and doesn’t have clue what social media is. If I see helpful information in a blog, the Wall Street Journal, or the NY Times, I’ll share it with people who’ve come to trust me. The blogger, WSJ, or NYT doesn’t need to pay me. If I like a restaurant, I’l share word of it with people who trust me. The restaurant needn’t pay me.
  • You tell me your company is ‘an ex-Google social media/twitter advertising company.’ Are you telling me that Google started or acquired MyLikes and spun it off? Maybe not – when I looked at your website I read MyLike’s founders just “previously worked at Google where they were some of the key people behind Gmail, Google Base, Google Docs, AdSense and Google Video.” But when you’re already playing fast and loose with trust, what’s a little stretching the truth to your advantage.
  • You give me a link to your company’s about page where I can read “We have been covered by the New York Times…” Coverage that’s not all favorable. Robert Scoble, a leading technology blogger and author, told the NY Times Tweeting Ads “…interferes with your relationship with your friends and your audience” and that he “unfollows” people on Twitter who send him ads. But some folks won’t read the ‘coverage’ and what’s a betrayal of trust matter, when the business model of your company is to get people to betray the trust the others.

Companies with a moral compass the likes of MyLikes will always be around to try ruin a good thing like social media. Fortunately, most people are genuinely good and act in ways to earn the trust of others, not betray it.

We’ll never get the likes of MyLikes to see how misguided their business is. The opportunity to make a quick buck at the expense of others is just too great.

But you can decide like me not to sell ads on Twitter. And you can do as Scoble does and un-follow people who betray your trust by tweeting ads. Will it amount to more than a drop in a bucket as far as closing down these clowns and stop people from tweeting ads? Probably not, but we can still do what is right.

  • http://nich3.net Nick Nichols

    Agreed, Kevin. When I first heard of MyLikes business model I thought it sounded horrible.

  • http://www.podwojneopodatkowanie.pl Rafal

    Of course guys! This is quite stupid idea. I one want to have a truly business one cannot sell his/her followers = customers.
    Thanks Kevin for this post!
    Regards!
    Rafal
    Poland

  • http://www.wbdlaw.com nancy zalusky berg

    I have been following you for some time – this comment on tweeting is absolutly correct if the medium is to have any integrity.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    The medium (Twitter) has as much or as little integrity as your phone, your car, your letterhead, your presentations at an industry conference, your quotes to reporters, and your blogging. It’s what you make, or fail to make, of all these mediums or tools.
    We should’t get caught up in assessing whether Twitter lacks or has integrity based on the way people use it. Drug deals are done on cell phones (a medium used to engage people). If I believe the Soprano’s is based in some fact, hits are placed on people by people driving in their cars (a medium used to engage people) to clandestine meetings to instruct someone who they are to kill.
    Would we evalute whether cars or cell phones have integrity as mediums/tools used to engage other based on how they are used? Of course not.
    We need to get comfortable with not being prejudge-mental abouth things that are new to us to like Twitter.

  • http://www.californiaeminentdomainreport.com/ Rick Rayl

    Kevin –
    This seems to take the idea of “ghost blogging” to a whole new level. Instead of paying someone to write your content (another thing that seems strange to me), you get paid to post someone else’s. Wow.
    I don’t have too many followers, and I blog about a narrow, esoteric topic, so I’m likely never going to rise to the level of being invited to be a “premium influencer,” but I think your fundamental point is right on.
    If I ever got to the point that enough people followed me to warrant such attention, why in the world would I want to expoit all that hard-earned trust by pushing out paid ads?
    Finally, congratulations on being willing to take such a hard, public stance on this issue. I’m quite confident that had I received such an invitation, I would have just ignored it. — Rick

  • http://www.newbusinessresources.net Jack Greene

    Unfortunately, this experience is not isolated to Twitter. Lately, I’ve been noticing a surge in people setting up discussions within groups on LinkedIn. I’m all in favor of this medium, but recently on one of the groups I belong, someone was offering a vacation spot! I won’t mention the group, but this was definately not related. Hopefully, they’ll get the message sooner rather than later.

  • http://www.gjel.com/blog Ben Buchwalter

    I knew that Twitter rolled out a new advertising strategy. But I didn’t know that they allowed this sort of thing. I wonder if there’s a movement to get twitter to ban such activity. And does anyone know of Twitter users who actually do this?

  • Mitch B.

    I too have seen an increase lately in the use of Twitter as an advertising platform. To me it is a shame to ruin your integrity in the name of $2.
    While it is clear it was only a matter of time before someone came along that would exploit the influence of others this model surprises me. At first glance it seems like an endorsement in the midst of useful content. In reality it ends up being akin to SPAM from your favorite blogger/tweeter/etc. In that sense it harms both the individual, because they lose integrity for co-mingling ads with content, and the medium, because it may slowly become less realiable as a useful resource.
    Aside from the integrity issues, I’d be interested to hear if others think that this will cause any issues with the FTC’s regulations on bloggers.

  • http://www.greekmediator.com Pandora Manolidi

    Congratulations on being willing to take such a hard, public stance on this issue.

  • http://advocatesstudio.com Martha

    For the record, Scoble was tweeting / posting affiliate links a while back on Twitter and Friendfeed. Morality apparently blows with the wind. My feeling is that affiliate / ad links don’t trouble me if there is clear disclosure in the communication that it is in fact a paid link. I can chose whether to click or not. Presumably, you wouldn’t tweet the ads for products / services that you don’t already like or approve of. That being said, I for an invitation and opted not to take it for the same reason I don’t put affiliate links on advocatesstudio.com – my sites and sharing are about my info and my services and I don’t want to dilute that message.

  • http://www.gjel.com/blog Ben Buchwalter

    I just stumbled upon a link that reminded me of this thread and exemplifies what Kevin is talking about to an absurd extent. Sneaky Ways Advertisers Target Kids. The article mentions that celebrities like Kim Kardashian are paid up to $10,000 per tweet by companies like Reebok. Truly absurd.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for the comment Martha.
    Scoble has done a lot of things in serving as a kind of virtual reality tour of the Internet and how it can be used. Following Robert is a win for anyone looking to be provoked to think about things differently than how others may be thinking about them.
    By and large though, I think Robert has his heart in the right place when it comes hawking others’ services and products to people who trust Robert enough to follow him. When he’s not made the appropriate disclosure, and gotten his hand slappped for failing to do so, I’ve seen him apologize quickly.