Why Magpie’s Advertising System Is Self-Diminishing

Testing a Twitter Advertising System
I tested out Magpie, an advertising system that creates tweets in my tweet stream, from third party advertisers then pays me.

Some have already blogged about their opposing thoughts on it, and some are publicaly open that they are now Magpies. For me, it was just a test that I’ve now ceased.

Part of my job as an analyst covering social media is to use the very tools in which I cover. I use this knowledge to write reports, help clients, and make suggestions to the vendors themselves. You can expect brands to ask me “how should we engage in Twitter” and I’ll point them to this very post.

There was quite the vitriolic reaction from some, others didn’t seem to mind, a few were acceptable of it. If there was anyone to test it, it makes sense for me, it’s part of my job, and I have a large enough follower base to average reactions.

I’m also going to measure the amount of folks that may have unsubscribed with TweepleTwak, hopefully they’ll realize it’s not permanent and return.

The Test
I setup the system a few days ago, and set it for every 10th tweet there would be an ad, the system is supposed to line up ads with content related to what I talk about. Either there was no brands related to what I talk about, or the system felt I talked about magpie enough, it tweeted this:

“#magpie startups give magpie a try! they’ve got a total reach of 500,000 followers. campaigns starting at EUR 10. http://rubyurl.com/k98e”

Immediately after, I let my followers know it was a test, and tweeted the following:

“That last tweet was my first test of Magpie, It was auto generated by them. I’m testing this as a social media analyst. What do you think? “

Here are the 48 reactions, which I’ve sorted by sentiment:
Responses came in over 60 minutes.

Successful or Accepted: 7 Responses

  • findchris: @jowyang Not so bad as long as the #magpie tag is used.
  • gahlord: Also, fwiw, I don’t care that much if @jowyang uses Magpie (I put up with a lot of noise for Guy, why not for Owyang?)
  • nateritter: @jowyang at least it was relevant. Probably first thing I’ve clicked on in your stream in a while actually. It interests me.
  • mediamanx: @jowyang the magpie ad seems relevant – though self promoting to magpie. will be interesteing to see what follows & how frequent they run
  • davidkspencer: @jowyang I wouldn’t mind it if the #magpie tag somehow stood out. It blends in, easy to miss. That’s an issue with app, not business model.
  • DavidBrim: @jowyang #magpie sounds cool, but I don’t think a CPM model will be as effective as a CPC or CPA model. http://tinyurl.com/6cvgzo
  • KevinUrie: @jowyang it will work for you, and you will not loose many followers. But for most it will be a death sentence. Saying test, ruins the test
  • Unsure, Neutral or Conditional: 14 Responses

  • ewantoo: @jowyang I think it will all depend on the adverts carried, an ad to buy herbal viagra is going to get you or anyone else blocked
  • jasonlog: @jowyang should think of twit copywriting
  • gahlord: @jowyang Will you have to give a disclaimer about potential profit motives when writing about Magpie?
  • john_mcgann: @ jowyang If early adopters are important to the advertiser then advertwitting could actually *damage* a brand… IMHO
  • jusx: @jowyang i wouldn’t mind magpie if it labels it’s tweets with “SPONSOR” or “ADVERTISEMENT”. Yes in caps. It’s a bit deceiving IMHO.
  • fritzpw: @jowyang I got a message advertising magpie. Was that the intent?
  • sawinkler: @jakemarsh @jowyang just had the same exact tweets. did I just see magpie in action?
  • JoeSeale: @jowyang IMHO magpie gives a certain opaqueness to the term transparency. Where’s the disclaimer that you didn’t *actually* post that info?
  • A_F: @jowyang they need to disclose in the tweet that it is a “sponsored” tweet, else = FAIL
  • JoeSeale: @jowyang I suppose I missed the #magpie. Does that count as a disclaimer?
  • techpr: @jowyang auto-generated by magpie (not clear) and they refer to themselves in third person. lame. twitter is about transparency, no?
  • NoOneYouKnow: @jowyang Magpie site http://be-a-magpie.com/ is a little confusing – is it pay for tweet? ad network?
  • fbpda: @jowyang I don’t think that #magpie is going to annoy me but if it bothers one of my followers then it’s a no-go for me.
  • jasona: @jowyang It was a big, blatant billboard on the side of a nice, quite, untouched country road.

  • Negative Reaction: 20 Responses

  • GrantGriffiths: @jowyang What do I think. I think #Mappie is a bunch of BS that twitter doesn’t need.
  • WBkilburn: @jowyang To me, it diminishes your credibility. Advert is in your voice – on blog ads, there’s a distinction between autor and advertiser.
  • bloodandmilk: @jowyang It made me wonder why you were running an ad, and I doubted your judgement a little.
  • laser: @jowyang I wish that the magpie tweets came across as ads rather than personal announcements. Seems kind of misleading.
  • t_de_baillon: @jowyang Magpie means more noise for less signal. I never thought diluting a message was a good marketing strategy
  • WellTold: @jowyang re magpie, I’d rather eat my foot than use that. Ads on twitter – leave me alione!!!!!
  • kerry_anne: @jowyang I blogged my reasons for disliking #magpie a few weeks ago: http://is.gd/6hD8 (expand)
  • durjoy: @jowyang I think it’s noise pollution
  • jonesabi: @jowyang The trust I feel when I think of you plummeted.
  • gilliatt: @jowyang I think be-a-magpie.com is making http://magpie.net glad they rebranded earlier. Twitter spam will not make friends.
  • thehartworker: @jowyang as much as I know I cannot influence at all what magpie twitters in my name – therefore: no way I will use it
  • kellytirman: @jowyang I am not feeling it. There must be a better solution to monetize Twitter, if at all.
  • PatrickCourtney: @jowyang there’s no real barrier between ad and content. To me it weakens credibility – like pay per post for blogs.
  • dtd: @jowyang I think no. The Magpie “message” seems to be coming directly from you.
  • seanodotcom: @jowyang spammy.
  • zolierdos: @jowyang Jeremiah, you gotta be kidding, this is spam
  • theregoesdave: @jowyang i think magpie is paying for your credibility, but you don’t get it back when they’re done #magpie
  • brentnau: @jowyang I really believe that if the tweets do not pass the sniff test followers wiil revolt. Escpecially if used too often.
  • AndySwan: @jowyang please don’t. #magpie is NO DIFFERENT than accepting $$ to send your friends spam emails or intterupt their real convos with pitch
  • Benderelly: @jowyang I think you’re cashing in – I ain’t clicking on it.

  • Unfollow: The worst reaction: 7 Responses

  • quietrevolution: @jowyang I like folks promoting themselves/their biz etc. I would delete you from my followers & anyone else that uses it. No value to me.
  • ericagee: @jowyang Yeah, I hatethe idea of Magpie and agree with Joe – I’d unfollow anyone who started using it regularly.
  • ninjarunner: @jowyang i have told myself that i will unfollow people who use #magpie. Love your tweets, at a cross-roads if you use it…
  • adarowski: @jowyang I can’t really think of any cases where magpie ≠ unfollow.
  • JoeCascio: @jowyang Dude, you have to be kidding. Anybody that spams me thru Magpie gets an automatic un-follow. 4reelz.
  • wnourse: @jowyang Don’t like it – I may stop following if people start using it
  • mark2100: @jowyang @JessicaKnows I’m unfollowing you because of Magpie, it’s nothing personal but tweeter users need to take a stand against spam.
  • Findings
    Positive Reactions 7, or 14%
    Unsure Reactions 14, or 29%
    Negative Reactions: 20, or 41%
    Unfollow (very negative) 7, or 14%

    As you can see, the majority of responses were negative (20), some downright annoyed or angry and ready to leave (7), that means that 56% of respondents had negative reactions. Many were confused (14), or had conditions on why it could be successful, and finally a few were actually ok with it (7) a mere 14%. Given the weight of the majority of negative responses, this system is not ready.

    Magpie not ready –and will self implode
    In the end, Magpie (or any Twitter advertising system) is going to need some fixes to be successful. The ads need to be clearly identified as ads, the content relevant enough so followers would accept them, and a disclosure made by the tweeter to their followers what’s being done. Perhaps some alternative marketing methods would be developing ads when using the search tools, or on background screens (this has already happened).

    Brands often don’t know how to engage in conversational marketing, we’ve seen quite a few brands create Twitter accounts, but are unsure what to do, some spit out press releases and links to blog posts alone, and others create personas like Popeye’s chicken that some are unsure how to react to.

    Yet advertising in social media is already well accepted
    One thing is for sure, just as we saw with the once “pure” blogs, marketers follow crowds, in fact, I remember in 2005 many bloggers would revolt against blogs having ads, my recent count showed that there are 4 on scobleizer, 12 on RWW, 14 on Techcrunch, and 21 ads on Mashable. (note, sometimes its hard to tell what’s an ad and what’s not). In fact, there are 1.5 million subscribers to Techcrunch’s RSS feed, which contains ads instream at the bottom of each post –ads are an acceptable part of opt-in content.

    There’s also Glam Media, Federated Media, Google Ad sense and others, in fact, one of my favorite podcasts, For Immediate Release is sponsored by Ragan communications and other vendors, and I have no problem with this as the signal is high, and the ads are related to my interests.

    Risks, Money, and Experiments
    Yes, I took a risk losing some followers by doing this test, yet I’ve since stop the magpie service. Now that the test is over, and will be meeting with the Magpie team for a phone briefing if we can coordinate since the team is in Germany.

    What about the money? It calculates the number of followers I have, (plus some other factors I believe) and Magpie let me know I earned a few euros, €32.87 which equates $41.39. I won’t be collecting the money, since they only cash out for 50 euros, and if they mail me a check, I’ll donate it to the Red Cross, my favorite charity.

    Love to hear your reactions to this experiment.

    Update: Just like Tivo, Ad blocking software and email spam filters appeared as a response to ads, a Magpie Blocking script has appeared which auto filters all messages that contain those messages in them.

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    • Completely agree with Lucretia (#50). There’s something called business ethics that any right-thinking company should adhere to. By not making the Magpie ads visible (when you allow the disclaimer to be taken away altogether) you’re basically creating false advertising.

      That seems incredibly bad business to me, and the work of a company that may say they’re trying to improve but are, in essence, just out to make whatever they can before being found out.

    • Twitter will have to find a way to monetize, but I would prefer the Adwords model – a sidebar clearly marked “Advertisement”.

    • Thanks for this post! Very interesting. I have been wondering the same thing myself, so it was good to see your real life example.

    • Like you pointed out, “the ads need to be clearly identified as ads” which can be difficult on a system where you are limited by characters. In addition, Magpie now allows users to self select what this identification looks like, so it will soon be even more difficult to filter out what’s a Magpie ad and what is not.

      Rather than the approach that Magpie has taken, I would much rather see Twitter users monetize their Twitter account (if they decide to do so at all) through means that don’t interrupt the flow of the rest of their conversation, such as background ads on their Twitter profile page.

      The main problem that I have with Magpie is that it disrupts the normal flow of conversation. Imagine the Magpie process in other scenarios: You’re walking around with a few friends, and one out of every ten sentences out of everyone’s mouths is ‘sponsored’. Or what about if one out of every ten emails that you received from a friend was ‘sponsored’? Sure, they’d make a few dollars from the advertiser, and you could ignore the ads if you wanted to, but it just devalues the overall medium of the conversation, and adds another layer of spam into our already cluttered lives.

      There are also plenty of other reasons why I don’t think Magpie is a sustainable model (they make money off of someone else’s network, technology, servers, development and support time, etc., they are yet to provide the relevant links that they’ve promised, they pay in pounds, they bribe users with highly speculative estimations of potential profit, they don’t take into account the value of an account after people unfollow from the flood of Magpie ads, and on an on…) but I just ended up putting everything into one post as a summary of my thoughts and feelings: http://thefutureofads.com/2008/11/03/magpie-tries-to-make-twitter-an-ad-network-fails/

      Thankfully, it looks like the community has come together in support of keeping Twitter pure, and our gatekeeper role has kept the flood of spammers and poorly targeted advertisers at bay for now.

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    • I’m not sure about your assessment. Maybe if you had tested it with other Twitter accounts.

      There are many types of people and website/bots using Twitter for various things. Say a person who’s using Twitter to update followers on football memorabilia he gets in his store or whatever and wants to make a few extra dollars using #magpie to promote relevant items. Would that have a different result. I think so.

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    • Jeremiah, thank you for the test, reactions are all legitimated, but we must also understand that this service (twitter) is free and also think that we are not under the obligation to click on the ‘ad’ by magpie.
      Dont be surprise if twitter starts to allow more advertising methods in the site.
      Remember we are all looking for money, magpie and their users do.

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    • i was wondering the same thing, but i knew it was a test of some sort. Does this company also send Direct Messages? I have been receiving spammy related messaged from people that I follow.

    • The system continues to evolve this this was first introduced. Many new players on the scene yet this early player really got the ball rolling.

    • How is the system doing today? Does it still work ok?

    • Magpie is a recently introduced service that inserts advertising into a users list of posts on Twitter.

    • jrhgh5hi6hy9iouim
    • yes , a fresh idea , it deserved to learn .

    • Wow, looks like I'll be finding other ways to make money online than trying to advertise in my tweets. I feel it is obviously a self destructive path to choose to advertise in your tweets (with magpie) with such solid results from your studies Jeremiah Owyang. Thanks for providing this research before I bombed my timeline and follower count. I too asked my followers how they felt if I were to start advertising in my tweet stream. I mostly received negative feedback and some long term twitter friends said they wouldn't even think twice about unfollowing me. If everyone on Twitter was advertising in their tweet stream and we were all making a decent living and happy about it, that would be different. I don't want to be the only one advertising, I'll look like a goof.

    • This reaction fits with my intuition.  I think twitter is a medium where people react very strongly to the degree to which they perceive a twitter account as sincerely engaging in conversation.

      My personal reaction would probably be to unfollow unless I had a strongly compelling reason to want to follow the person (i.e. if they were an influential contact of mine who was following me back, and following very few other people, or if I thought their other tweets were top-notch in quality and relevance to me).

      It’s a strong enough reaction that I’d even be worried about my own reputation…that someone might be bothered enough by it that they’d be upset at me if they found out that account through looking at who I followed.

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