It’s marketing, Jim… but not as we know it

December 31, 2014 by Martha’s Dad

star-trek-3903224What has made Captain Kirk so angry this week? According to this report on GMA News, it appears to be Twitter that has led dear old Willian Shatner to reach for his phaser.  Like many of us, Shatner has noticed the subtle change in how the world’s biggest micro-blogging service handles its advertising and he’s not too impressed!

The change specifically relates to how Twitter suggests companies we may be interested in.  Previously, if we were blogging about a particular topic regularly, we would find posts appearing from related organisations that had paid for promotional marketing. I blog about social media marketing quite regularly, for instance, so I get tweets by a whole host of marketing companies and self-styled “brand strategists” flooding my Twitter feed – most of which I completely ignore, it has to be said.  Now, though, Twitter are going a step further and is actually adding these companies/gurus to the list of people I follow.  It is this particular “innovation” that has caused Captain Kirk to get his tricorders in such a twist.  A step too far, maybe?

Not quite sure what I think about the ethics of all this, though Shatner does make one or two valid points that make me wonder about the potential downside. In particular, he raises the possibility that we may find tweets by competitors popping up in our Twitter feed, or perhaps from organisations who are rivals of some of our key strategic partners.  Certainly, as an academic at Durham University, I’m not too impressed when I see tweets promoting programmes at other institutions appearing on a regular basis, let alone those rival universities now being added to the list of organisations I follow.

I am also inclined to agree with Shatner when he questions what others may make of these additions – for instance, if the University of Grimsby appears in my Twitter feed and on list of institutions I follow, does this mean I (or indeed Twitter itself, for that matter) may be seen by others to be actively endorsing that prestigious seat of learning?  The debate on this one will probably continue, me thinks…!