In The Circus Ring: Strangers Notice You on Twitter

I did an experiment a couple of months ago on Twitter, beginning with the following observations:

  1. I use Bluehost for my web host and really like them. They provide good service and are cheap.
  2. GoDaddy sucks.
  3. People ask via Twitter messages about web hosts.

Therefore, I wanted to see what would happen if I advertised Bluehost (using my affiliate link, of course–if someone clicks on it then signs up, I get paid) on Twitter. More than that, though, I’d target my advertisements to those interested in it by sending them messages through Twitter.

To accomplish this, I searched Twitter for the terms webhost and godaddy and specifically targeted those seeking a new web host or who were using and/or complaining about GoDaddy, which was a fair amount of people. I wrote a couple of Twitter messages with embedded affiliate links and then sent them to 10-15 different people.

The people I was messaging were appreciative, and while some of the normal followers I have on Twitter were annoyed at the spam (though they found it amusing when I told them about the experiment and it was no big deal), the biggest surprise came from “professional advertisers.” It had occurred to me that other people might have the same idea as me, but I hadn’t realized how territorial they were.

Just as I was able to easily find people who were writing about GoDaddy and web hosting, I was easily found by other advertisers. They didn’t just message those to whom I was advertising to give them an alternative. They called me out, messaging the people I had and telling them that I was using an affiliate link to try and make money.

I found this all kinds of amusing, because these disgruntled Twits were calling me out for doing the same thing they do for a living. They sit around all day and send messages on Twitter, and were perhaps understandably upset that I was horning in on their turf. But they didn’t contact me, and their complaint wasn’t that I was stealing potential customers. Rather, they were highlighting how I was doing exactly what they do.

It was then that I realized how incredibly public Twitter is. This isn’t a messaging service for me and my friends, where we communicate semi-privately. When I send a message to someone, it’s not just me and them. Twitter is like standing in a crowded public square and yelling as load as you can at each other. Other people will hear, and they will take notice.

The realization was a bit unsettling, but that hasn’t stopped me from using Twitter. It does make me a bit more cautious about what I post, however, and I have begun using direct messages (which go through Twitter but can only be seen by you and the recipient) more.

But in the center ring
I’m safe from everything except for…

Pie in my face

Bozo’s Lament by Jonathan Coulton

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