Why can’t Facebook and Twitter say the A-word?

March 1, 2012

What’s the most uncool word in social media?


Just look at the pains the top social networking companies take to avoid uttering the dreaded term.

Twitter started the trend when it rolled out its advertising products in 2010, which it dubbed “promoted Tweets.” Chief Executive Dick Costolo (who was COO at the time) insisted that the marketing pitches coming to Twitter were not ads at all – they were simply standard Twitter messages that companies could pay to promote.

Now Facebook, which derived 85 percent of its revenue from advertising last year, has developed a similar aversion to the A word.

At a splashy marketing event in New York on Wednesday, the company introduced a new ad format that will allow big brand marketers to push information directly into users’ newsfeeds and onto other prominent on-screen real-estate. The word “advertising” was conspicuously absent from the somewhat vague name of the new ad format: “Premium on Facebook.”

Facebook executive Mike Hoefflinger (pictured, right)  even delivered a whole on-stage spiel about why Facebook’s new ads were in fact not ads, but “stories.”

“Ads come from anyone at anytime, stories come from people and things you’re connected to,” he said. “Ads get shared once a year at the Super Bowl. Lots and lots of little stories get shared on Facebook all the time.”

Is this penchant for euphemisms a sign that the Web’s new businesses are in denial about their actual businesses? Or is it indication that these companies are once again ahead of the cultural zeitgeist?

Perhaps other industries will soon follow the lead of Facebook and Twitter.

For example landlords could start charging tenants monthly mortgage supplementary enhancements while gasoline companies could offer drivers “transportation narratives” at the pump.

(Photo: Reuters)





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Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, that refuse to claim advertisement where it exists, aren’t fooling anyone. Advertising by any other name, is still advertising. The fear of backlash for advertisements on these sites is what leads them to use terms such as “promoted tweets” or “stories.” These sites are supported by advertisements, which is what allows users to access them for free. These sites should practice transparency with their business and advertising instead of beating around the bush.

Posted by UrsiWagner | Report as abusive

Agreed. “Promoted Tweets” and “Stories” are still advertisements, they’ve just changed who the copy writers are. Instead of it being someone from the company buying the ads, it’s the people I’m tangentially connected to online.

The reason they ARE still ads is because someone still pays for them to appear.

Posted by Ciaoenrico | Report as abusive