||Some Twitter Users Push Back on Ads
Subculture Known as Weird Twitter Opts for Insincere Engagement
When a fellow who uses the Twitter handle DudeHugs sends out a message to his 10,000 followers that reads, "Loving this all-natural Sierra Mist...RT if u have ever touched or seen a dog," he isn't trying to promote the soft-drink brand or trying to appeal to dog lovers.
A part of a burgeoning Twitter subculture known as Weird Twitter, he is speaking in a purposefully nonsensical code that is meant to satirize the growing presence of corporate brands and marketers on the popular social network.
In the minds of some early adopters and fans, Twitter -- now with 200 million active monthly users -- is a victim of its success, and they are seeking ways to subvert the corporate vibe.
Twitter generates some of its revenue by selling advertisements that sometimes appear as "promoted tweets" in the Twitter feeds of targeted users. When Twitter users engage with promoted tweets by replying or retweeting them, Twitter charges the brand behind the promoted tweet.
For some people and corporations, this can be a powerful tool in building brand awareness and in driving commerce. For others, it detracts from what they see as Twitter's main value -- an engine that organically can propel ideas, concepts and products into a larger marketplace.
Some users are trying to game Twitter's revenue structure as a way to express their displeasure. Ryan Woodsmall, a 34-year-old information-technology worker in St. Louis., hates promoted tweets. When he notices one from, say, Wal-Mart or Bank of America, in his feed, he will reply to the tweet or retweet it after editing the tweet to insert misspelled words or other flourishes that he hopes will reflect poorly on the brand. He also does this because he hopes it will drive up the cost of advertising for the brand.
"It's just fractions of pennies and it's juvenile, but it's still satisfying," says Mr. Woodsmall.
Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Twitter, says the company uses sophisticated algorithms that pair specific ads to specific users. The algorithms also detect "click fraud" to protect advertisers from unfair costs. They also look for -- and don't charge brands for -- insincere engagement, like Mr. Woodsmall's.
"This has really developed into a very precise science, it's an evolving science but a lot of thought gets put into it," Mr. Prosser says.
As for Weird Twitter and the conflicted feelings of early adopters as Twitter's usership grows, Mr. Prosser says, "To me it's the eternal battle people have over hipsterdom."
"Twitter can feel cheesy sometimes, so promotional and self-aggrandizing," says John Manoogian III, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco who joined Twitter in 2006, its inaugural year. "It's experiencing Eternal September," he says, using the Internet slang for when something becomes overcome by the masses. He says that he and other purists are finding refuge in Weird Twitter.
"It's just regular people trying to reclaim the platform with ironic, meta-humor," Mr. Manoogian says.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 08/05/13)