No political 'Promoted' tweets and trends this election season

The home page of the Web site Twitter.


Kai Ryssdal: The social media website Twitter is steering clear of politics. The company waded into the world of paid tweets and corporate advertising just about six months ago. But as the election season really gets going, Twitter's says paid political ads aren't welcome -- 140 characters or not.

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.

Steve Henn: Politicians love Twitter so much it's almost indecent.

Josh Bernoff: You know, there are two things that tend to be on the leading edge of new communications technology: Porn and politics.

Josh Bernoff is the co-author of the book "Groundswell" and a social media expert at Forrester Research. Bernoff says President Obama has 5.5 million followers; John McCain has 1.7 million. It's not really Ashton Kutcher territory but it's not bad. And for aspiring elected officials, connecting with voters directly on Twitter is a no-brainer.

Scott Galloway: It's the difference between renting and owning a possible voter.

Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU's Stern School, says for politicians...

Galloway: If someone chooses to follow you, you own them -- and that is, you own the relationship and have license to communicate them and send specific messages at almost no incremental cost.

And that beats paying big money to interrupt their TV shows with annoying ads.

Political ad: So listen up, Alabama ad commissioner is one of the most powerful positions in Alabama.

Bernoff laughs

Bernoff: I don't think anyone likes political ads.

And Bernoff says that likely one of the reasons that Twitter is treading carefully. Its executives don't want to overwhelm users with paid political ads that are infuriating. Twitter's ad platform also just isn't ready. The company simply doesn't have the ad space available to accommodate every politician out there -- and it can't end up in a situation where executives are picking and choosing which paid political tweets to promote.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.
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As I've gotten involved in politics over the past couple of years (because of pork filled bailout bills written by the financial institutions), I've decided to follow all my incumbents and local candidates on a separate political Twitter account. How a candidate handles the (in)formalities of sharing official information over Twitter shows the personality of the candidate, or at least their team. Failure to take advantage of technology by a candidate shows me they are out of touch, and can't even get a tech literate staffer to provide updates.

A politician only owns my support as long as they act prudently in the interests of all their constituents, rather than using my tax dollars to buy the votes of various interests. I don't care about the party if I believe the individual is taking care of the public's trust.

Oh, and your quote is wrong, "Alabama Ag Commissioner" has to be one of the funniest attempts to portray a politician as a good old cowboy of all time. Definitely worth watching the whole thing.

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