Holly Madison (from “The Girls Next Door”) will be one of at least 10 celebs to help roll out “SponsoredTweets.com”, a new service that will let advertisers reach out to popular Twitter users and hire them to promote products in 140 characters or less.
“The goal is to make this a platform that has a diverse base of celebrities participating - everything from TV stars to sports celebrities to sports teams and media properties,” says Ted Murphy, founder of the site.
Scheduled to go live on July 27, SponsoredTweets won’t be exclusive to stars. Any Twitter user can sign up and set their price to tweet a product. Advertisers will then contact users that interest them and make an offer.
“The average Twitter user has less than 150 followers,” says Murphy. “Celebrities have hundreds of thousands. Those turn into some pretty big assets for the celebrities and we want to provide them with a tool to monitize those.”
There’s a slippery slope by mixing ads with tweets, though. Fans often see celebrity Twitter accounts as a way to communicate directly with actors, musicians and sports stars. To see those personal missives mixed with ads could damage that relationship.
There’s also the shadow of the paid blogging controversy. Many bloggers who acted as journalists have acknowledged accepting cash to positively promote a product. In this case, how will fans be able to differentiate between a casual mention of a product in a tweet and a paid endorsement?
Murphy says the ads will be clearly labeled.
“Everything in the platform - every tweet - has to be disclosed,” he says. “What we’ve done is built in a software system that enforces disclosure. We’re trying to bring a level of transparency to the process.”
Perhaps so, but one of Twitter’s appeals for many people has been its reputation as an Oasis from the ad clutter of the rest of the Internet. Upsetting that balance could be a risky game.