Counterblast after Twitter sneaks in paid advertisers into users’ Following lists

Posted on Dec 31 2014 - 5:18pm by Sukanya
Twitter is drawing  in some damaging feedback with its ways of promoting sponsors' accounts

Twitter is drawing in some damaging feedback with its ways of promoting sponsors’ accounts

We wouldn’t be bursting anybody’s bubble if we were to tell you how much social media is enabling advertisers to get themselves into our lives, whether within user terms and agreements or without. It is no secret that social networking sites are staying free of cost and surviving that way because of the multitudinous deals inked with third-party business houses, merchants, developers, their APKs and publicity material which is filtered and content that is cut out for every user is flashed on screen intermittently along with the slowly disappearing friends’ posts that they actually wish to see more of. 

After Facebook, it is now Twitter that is in a soup after a slew of allegations put forth by a celebrity who discovered that he was ‘Following’ accounts that he had never wanted to on the microblogging site. We’ve whined and lost to all these obtrusive native ads gobbling up chunks of space on our social media sites but what an 83 year old Canadian-American actor unearthed seems to have just pissed off a lot of public figures and other users as well. William “Bill” Shatner, the one time Star Trek actor was having a normal day on Twitter (yes, it is surprising that he is such an active user for the age) and that’s when he saw an unsolicited entrant in the list of accounts he follows. The sponsored Master card account (one of those that wear a ‘promoted’ badge just below the name) seemed to have materialized out of thin air on his list because he says he could have sworn he did never hit Follow by himself. He then did some digging around and guess what – he found out that the same Master Card handle was also being followed by a motley crew of other celebrity, major league icons like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lady GaGa, Barack Obama and by Visa’s account itself. And like him, all of these dignitaries seemed to have been caught unawares which would have been quite obvious particularly because The Rock officially follows just one account on Twitter and that is Muhammad Ali’s. 



William Shatner decided to voice out against this sleazy form of devious ‘endorsement’ as he deems it, by tweeting about it for all of his 2.03 million Tweeps to see. He also went ahead and hashtagged Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey and the official trust and safety account.

Following the uproar, Twitter did erase the account from these places and we can’t really say if it was to cover up or if the promotion period had just ended.

Furthermore, people other than celebrities also reported the showing up of the Master Card icon along with other sponsored ones on their lists. 

Anyway, William seems to have made it pretty apparent that he has lost respect for the social media site following this debacle. He later tweeted that 

So are Twitter ads seeping into the Following Lists now? Is Twitter actually selling ad space in our Following List? If advertisers are paying to feature on some popular Twitter handles and have Twitter create an impression that a bunch of ‘cool people’ are following the account of a merchant, doesn’t that amount to product endorsement? 

Well, it turns out that Twitter has been allowing paid promotions of this kind ever since 2013 which is doesn’t seems to sit well with users because they were only told how Twitter will include promoted accounts only in the Who To Follow suggestions section and of course the search results space. Following lists do not seem to feature explicitly anywhere in the advertiser’s support pages that Twitter provides for seekers of promotion on the site, based on user’s interests. 

Looks like the only solace could be in the face that these magically appearing accounts have the Promoted badge so you’ll know that it might as well have been planted into the person’s Following list by Twitter. 

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