- 3 Jul 09, 08:23 GMT
Is Twitter suddenly in a dangerous place, risking alienating users by becoming far too corporate, while failing to make any cash from those feeding off it? Three incidents in 24 hours have provoked that question.
First, I was invited by BBC colleagues to speak at an internal "summit"on the use of Twitter in our operations. Then I saw our story about the marketing agency promising to buy Twitter followers for clients. Finally there was a press release from a PR agency boasting that its client's product had dominated conversation on the micro-blogging service for an entire day.
Now mine is just one of many organisations suddenly scratching their heads over the potential - and the pitfalls - of using Twitter, but the fact that we and others are holding seminars about it is a sign that this network is becoming less social, more corporate.
And what about this Australian "social media marketing agency" - scary enough in itself - which thinks it can make money by selling me and other Twitterers to anyone who wants to buy us?
As a long-term user, I'm both appalled and fascinated by the idea. I'm a few hundred users short of 10,000 followers and so would love to acquire a few more in my increasingly desperate attempt to overhaul a couple of the UK's top technology writers.
But rest assured, I won't be paying uSocial to spam you with entreaties to come and hear about my personal and professional life - though if you need to find me I'm at twitter.com/ruskin147.
And what value do the brands who do sign up for this service think they're getting - surely they are likely to antagonise more people than they attract?
But it was the e-mail from the PR firm which really got my goat. It boasted that its client, a software firm which I shall not name, had managed to become the top trend on Twitter by promising big prizes in a competition to people who tweeted its name.
This achievement has been lauded not just by the PR agency but by bloggers too as an example of the right way to engage in "social" marketing. But the result is that it has made Twitter a much less useful and enjoyable place to be for a day, with corporate messages intruding into the conversation. So forget "#iranelection" - or even "#andymurray" - from now on the trending topics are likely to be "#winbigatpoker" or "#loseweightnowaskmehow."
Of course, we need to be realistic - Twitter is a business, not a charity, and does need to make some money at some stage. But the irony is that none of the marketing agencies, global brands or media giants clambering onto the back of this fast-growing network appears to be handing over a penny to Twitter.
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