Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why the Nerd in me Knows Ads Will Ruin Twitter

After a week-long vacation and self-imposed break from all things online, I admit this time my return to Twitter was a bit more reluctant than it has been after previous, shorter breaks. In years past, the idea of not checking Twitter for any length of time seemed much harder for some reason. I'm not sure if it's because I'm just well and truly burnt out from the sheer amount of time and energy I now spend online between what's required by my job and my own personal use, or that the ever-increasing number of "places" I feel compelled to visit and participate online has just become too much to handle, or that Twitter itself has just become too much to keep up with. Whatever the reason, I admit I was a bit surprised that I pretty much avoided Twitter entirely for a full week, and wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to get back to it once I could--and had to for work.

Then I saw someone tweet this article "Can Ad-Littered Twitter Keep Its Cool?" and, after a brief skim, thought "no." The article states "Last week, the company said it would integrate Promoted Tweets, 140-character ads from brands such as Dell and Starbucks, into user Twitter streams, placing them high in users' timelines." The piece goes on to compare Twitter to Facebook and extrapolates that because Facebook has succeeded in spite of ads, Twitter will too. I disagree. I think Twitter is already overcrowded and noisy and now that other options exist to connect with the same people (hello Google+), if Twitter turns into an ad-speckled mess, it will just encourage users to go elsewhere (again, hello Google+).

I hate Facebook as much as the next Facebook-hater, but I will say that at least their ads are out of the way over on the right sidebar--the area, usability-wise, that users' eyes tend to block out anyway. But Twitter plans to place promoted tweets "high in users timelines"--e.g. right where their eyes are looking first--which will, in my opinion, quickly prove to be annoying and will cause users to either stop following brands who use promoted ads (ads for a particular brand will apparently only be served to followers of that brand) or stop using Twitter altogether.

Another reason why I think the ads will kill off Twitter is because Twitter waited too long to incorporate ads into their users' collective experience. Had promoted tweets been part of Twitter during the love-affair phase of Twitter where it became the go-to place for me in terms of searching for information, seeing what was happening in the world, and connecting with friends, maybe I would have just accepted it and moved on. But now that I'm used to seeing just regular tweets in the stream, suddenly being barraged with promoted tweets will be that much more annoying. It's bad enough to have the tiny ad at the top of the Echofon Twitter iPhone app I use, but the other benefits the app offers outweigh the annoying-ness of the ad. But if suddenly I have to scroll down through a bunch of ads disguised tweets to get to the tweets I actually am interested in seeing--forget it.

Face it--now is a horrible time to start spouting ads into Twitter users' feeds: Twitter's horrible search capability just got a lot worse now that Google realtime search no longer exists, and the Google+ iPhone app's Huddle feature offers a way to carry on real-time, private conversations with people you actually want to hear from/connect with without having to use hashtags or scroll through scads of promotional garbage, not to mention away from the eyes of brands busy monitoring and responding on Twitter.

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