Tag Archives: hashtag

Twitter promoted Tweets – does it corrupt online journalism?

13 Mar

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

It began with Toy Story 3.  Finally, Twitter happened on a means of making money in the form of “promoted Tweets”.

Fair enough: if you don’t like the look of what’s being promoted, you don’t have to click on it.

But what happens, when news channels start promoting their news coverage via Twitter? The issue of how commercial pressures impact upon news coverage is something oft discussed by journalists: The Independent’s David Lister wrote about it back in 1993.  Commercial broadcasters, like ITV, are dependent on advertising revenue to finance their programmes, including news coverage.  So, the debate comes when viewers feel the news agenda is being dictated by these financial pressures, rather than editorial ones.

Al-Jazeera is having something of a moment in terms of its news coverage right now.  As early as January, it saw an increase in traffic to its site by a staggering 2,500%. Positioned in the perfect spot to cover the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya, it has leapt on the Twitter band-wagon to take advantage of this:

Al-Jazeera began promoting their tweets with the Egypt coverage

So, not only are they in the perfect spot to provide the most “on-the-ground” or “close-to-the-source” journalism, but they’re directing more traffic to their news coverage via promoted Tweets.

While it’s a fantastic application for social media on a new journalistic distribution platform – TV – the idea of paying to increase the size of your audience has its critics.

Data scientist, Ed Borasky points to Al-JAzeera’s purchase of major Egypt-related hashtags: #Egypt #jan25 #Mubarak and some of the new cabinet ministers, too.  He concludes: “This is about money pure and simple.  This is about closing sales.”

Borasky also flags up the fact that Al-Jazeera has gone even further than just hashtags and tweets.  It’s purchased a “Twitter promoted account”, which means it can crop up at the top of “who to follow lists”. 

So is it a question of Al-Jazeera unfairly exploiting Twitter and tricking users for its own gain? Or, is it merely an example of excellent mutual opportunism from both sides?

Twitter makes money from its promoted tweets and accounts and I’m sure Al-Jaz are paying handsomely for the privilege.  There doesn’t seem to be any definitive answer from Twitter on how much this all costs – whilst the Twitter blog introducing the concept in April last year raves about how “really excited” this new platform makes them, it doesn’t mention money and more significantly, the specific costs of promoting a tweet. Surely, this is a key question? Can I afford to promote my tweets, too? Or, do I need the financial backing of the Qatari Emir, as Al-Jazzera has?

Jeremy Shoemaker with his blog post on advertising with Twitter is more scathing still, asserting: “users get the shaft”.  He reminds us that, if Twitter chooses to promote my tweets, his tweets, or your tweets, we don’t get a penny.  He sums it up: “This is the first advertising model I can think of where the user who is creating 100% of the content being paid to advertise is getting zero percentage of the revenue”.

While I don’t like the idea of one news outfit attracting more coverage than another, simply because it has more money, Al-Jazeera does seem to have struck gold with Twitter promoted tweets.  It’s in the right place at the right time and exploiting that position to cement itself as THE place to go to for the latest on what’s unfolding in the Middle East.  It looks like we’re going to be hooked on what’s happening in the region for the foreseeable future so you can’t help but admire Al-Jazeera’s new marketing strategy.

This is beyond social media in online journalism, this is social media in online AND TV journalism: a new and exciting concept altogether.



Cross social media communication: from Twitter to Facebook and back again

30 Nov

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

As befits this festive time of year, I’ve been on the hunt for a case study to back up anecdotal evidence about the health and safety menace posed by temporary ice rinks that pop up all over London as soon as the evenings start to draw in. Because the raw statistics wouldn’t make for exciting and visual TV, I wanted to liven my story up with an interviewee who was willing to confess to some ice-skating mishap or other.

To such an end I tweeted a shout out to my followers:

A few days later I got a response but not on Twitter. The answer came on my FB wall:

Why? The obvious answer is that the friend in question wasn’t on Twitter but had linked from my FB profile to my Twitter account:

The added bonus is, of course, she had the freedom of more than 140 characters in which to explain the exact details of her ice-skating related injury.  And those extra characters resulted in an amusing anecdote which I don’t think would have worked had it been cropped, tweaked and packaged into a Twitter-friendly format.

Added to this, I’ve now discovered there’s a plethora of tools that allow us to update our FB statuses via Twitter, meaning the two social networks are more intertwined than ever before.  I recently discovered this app which means cross social media communication’s never been easier.

For the more selective tweeter, there’s also a selective app that only posts tweets with the hashtag #fb.

Steve Thornton of Twitip uses the analogy of Facebook as being like a wedding where you know everyone, conversations are more familiar, the responses you get are from already-made acquaintances. Twitter is like a large party, he says, where you don’t know anyone and you need to make an impression and stand out. The responses normally come from strangers, via the hashtag.

The fact that my responses came on FB perhaps suggests that I, like many relatively new users to Twitter, are using it as an extension to FB, tweeting “what I had for lunch today” style posts instead of building up an online community , as you might do with a blog.

But, the fact that I can cross-communicate, from Twitter to Facebook , clearly says something about the changing nature of social media and the people who are now using it. Journalists need a contacts book that extends further than just the people they went to school with; even if it’s the people they went to school with who end up providing the answer they’re looking for!