Twitter Is Unethical For Business Use

How many people are using Twitter for more than saying what they just ate or where friends can meet them? Lots of people are certainly using Twitter to express their ideas, and often link to blog posts that are related to their business, or opinion.
Twitter is thus being used for WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing), and should be subject to the same ethics rules and recommendations as blogging. (note: I am not a lawyer)

  • Disclosure in the Twitter Interface – currently impossible because there simply isn’t enough room in 160 characters.
  • Twitter Bio

  • Disclosure Link – maybe an ethical possibility, but you can’t add anchor text, and not all the URL is displayed
  • Disclosure Policy Link

  • Disclosure In Content – it is hard enough already to say anything meaningful within the number of words allowed, there is no way you could add a disclosure to the content as well.

Signal To Noise Ratio

If you remove the business related content because you can’t be transparent, the noise factor makes Twitter almost worthless from a business perspective.

So what has your favorite A Lister been shilling on Twitter today?


Mixed reactions so far to this “hot potato” and it was what I expected, because Twitter now has a fanatical following.

Karla came up with an interesting concept as a closing statement to what she wrote about Twitter, but it could have also been worded as a question.

Hmmm, I just hope that the candidates in this coming elections won’t use Twitter to campaign. OMG! What I have done?!? I just gave them an idea. Haha.

As happens quite often, I have been having a little discussion over on paul’s Blog regarding Twitter. He is wondering is Twitter somehow has built in trust, just like instant messaging, and is suggesting maybe some 3 letter universally adopted code might be the answer.

Does joining a Twitter feed class as opting in? If it does, does that mean it should comply with CAN-SPAM?

Paul is also trying to shoehorn me into doing a Podcast… the jury is still out

Update 2:
Steve Rubel has discussed the growing bills that Twitter are likely to be facing, unless they have something up their sleeves. As Endelman have a lot of experience with ethics issues, and disclosure, I would love him to address the disclosure problem on Twitter.

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  1. Sam Harrelson (3 comments.)
    Posted March 21, 2007 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s 140 characters, actually.

    And Twitter is not just about that dreadful thing called WOMM in the business context. There’s lots of valuable and practical ways to use it “for business” if you’re the least beat imaginative.

  2. John (7 comments.)
    Posted March 21, 2007 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I should be using Twitter for research purposes (read: to confirm how much it sucks), but I can’t bring myself to do it – the giddy hype has already given me a negative perception of it, and I’ve already unsubscribed from several well-known blogs because I can’t stand hearing about it anymore.

    SO, do you have any examples of how it’s being used as a shilling tool?:) I’d love to add this post to my growing list of anti-twitter sentiment, but it’ll take some time to confirm what you’re saying.

  3. Andy Beard (1677 comments.)
    Posted March 21, 2007 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Sam I didn’t specify a number of words in a message, just the bio, and the screenshot doesn’t lie.

    John, Jason Calacanis and the WOMMA seem to think that you need to have a disclosure at the top of every piece of content you write.

    If you are running a business then every piece of content you write which is directed to your customers is promotional in some way, even if it is only to confirm that you provide the best content.

    If you link to your recent post or podcast, or that of a friend, it is effectively shilling if there is no disclaimer.

    My link in Twitter is actually to my disclosure policy now, but you wouldn’t notice it.

    Sam you posted a link through to your Expo, you benefit from taking part in many ways for your business, there was no disclaimer – I am not saying that is wrong, but it is based on the ethics rules the WOMMA set, and Calacanis seems to champion even though he breaks them.

    I broke those rules as well, posting links to blog posts I thought would be interesting, but if the WOMMA and A list bloggers are trying to impose ethics on bloggers, it is important to have a level playing field for all.

  4. Dawud Miracle (5 comments.)
    Posted March 22, 2007 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t even looked at Twitter yet because I’ve been uncertain of how to use it for my business. And, it feels a little funny to think about it that way. And, as a business owner, isn’t that how I’m going to think of it? How will this ‘thing’ help me increase my reach? That’s the question.

    Regardless of how openly sharing the blogosphere is, we’re still faced with competition. And competition will breed people looking for ways to get one-up on each other. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it’s human nature.

  5. Andy Beard (1677 comments.)
    Posted March 22, 2007 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    I earn my crust currently from niche marketing, and you are always looking for a way to gain a share of a market

    Keyword Research
    SEO techniques
    Social Media
    Heh, sometimes even blogging

    It is natural for people to use every method they can find for ethical promotion and to express their views to more potential clients or supporters.

    I have just updated because Karla linked to me, but somehow I didn’t get a ping. The political equation with the strict rules for disclosure is interesting.

  6. Mike D (1 comments.)
    Posted March 23, 2007 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Andy, you’re going to throw up when you see this:

  7. Andy Beard (1677 comments.)
    Posted March 23, 2007 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Not at all,

    I would much prefer a situation where I didn’t have to disclose anything, and the only requirement was to maintain social trust with my audience.

    Unfortunately US, EU and UK regulations keep interfering with the smooth flow of conversation, and those purporting to be the ethical crusaders of the blogosphere simultaneously propose new legislation and requirements for the masses, while ignoring even the basics themselves.

  8. Charley
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I can think of one “business” related use of twitter that is worth mentioning. If your business happens to be a blog or any periodically updated website that promises a certain type of content at a certain timing, it can be beneficial to have a way to let your readers know how things are coming. Let me give an example to clarify what I’m saying.

    There’s a massively successful webcomic called MegaTokyo. Now don’t write this off because it’s a comic, this is a site that’s making some real money, from both advertising and merchandise, and has a serious following that borders on fanatical. Four collections have already been published from the comic and can be found at any major bookstore. It’s certainly a successful endeavor.

    Now the comic is supposed to update three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But with the very nature of a comic (lots of time spent drawing, cleaning up, inking, scanning and what if you don’t have the next strip figured out yet?) it’s not always possible to maintain a rigid schedule. Fans are usually understanding when the site gets a day or two behind, but it’s still disappointing to visit and see nothing new.

    So what the creator has done is add a little twitter widget on the page displayed beneath the comic. He keeps it strictly related to the progress of the comic, giving updates like “illustrations done, inking”,”comic done, getting it scanned, should be up this evening” or “water pipe broke, won’t be getting a strip up today, sorry.”

    This is a great move in my opinion. It accomplishes several things. For one, even when there’s no new content, readers know it’s coming, and often can get a feel for when and why it’s delayed. Secondly, even when things are on schedule readers love being able to keep tabs on the comic every step of the way. It let’s them feel more involved and close to the project and spurs on the kind of devotion that makes a site like this a success.

    So yeah, I’m not a massive fan of the twitter craze myself, but I thought I’d throw out at least one smart use of it i’ve seen.

  9. Laura Spencer (2 comments.)
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Since this original post is over a year old, I’d be interested in knowing how you feel about this now.

    Note – I don’t currently Twitter. I found this post when I was trying to decide whether or not I should start.

    • Andy Beard (1677 comments.)
      Posted March 27, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Laura I still worry about it, but I am about the only one who does.
      The people who slam others for being slimeball SEOs or about disclosure being required in blog posts currently are effectively buying links by offering incentives for people to follow them on twitter, and use Twitter to continually promote new content on their startups.

      I suppose ethics are great when they are convenient

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