The Problem With Promoted Tweets

Twitter logoPromoted Tweets are Twitter’s way of raising revenue. I cannot really fault them for creating a way to make money on a service that everyone can use for free. However, it seems like I’m getting more Promoted Tweets that do not match my interests than ones that do.

One very clear example of Promoted Tweets gone wrong involves a religious online university. The first Promoted Tweet I saw from them seemed to be trying to point out where I could get more information about their upcoming courses.

I replied to their Promoted Tweet to tell them that I was not their target audience. I noted that I was not the religion they were connected with. I said I had no children (so wouldn’t be putting them through college). I even told them that I had finished college and wasn’t intending to go back. Of course, I shortened my tweet so as to fit it within Twitter’s 140 character limit.

A couple of days later, there was another Promoted Tweet in my stream from the exact same religious online university. I found this to be annoying. This is when I realized that there is no “opt-out” button to prevent unwanted Promoted Tweets. I replied to the religious online university again. This time, I made it clear that I had already told them that I was not interested, and that I had no other choice now except to block them.

The information on Twitter’s Promoted Tweets page says that it is possible to target which accounts will see your Promoted Tweet based on geography, interests, gender, or by what mobile device the person uses to access Twitter. Maybe the university decided to just “spam” all of Twitter, instead of refining their target?

It also says that people who buy a Promoted Tweet only pay for engagement:

Since you only pay when people click on, favorite, reply, or retweet your Promoted Tweets, your budget gets used efficiently on Twitter.

This means that the university is paying for the two negative replies I sent to its Promoted Tweets. I’ve also gotten a Promoted Tweet from the governor of a state that I do not live in (and whose political views I don’t happen to agree with). I got another from a Senator who doesn’t represent my state or my political viewpoints. I’m certainly not following any of those accounts, so I cannot imagine why I’ve been targeted to see their Promoted Tweets.

So, that’s four Promoted Tweets that do not seem to be for me. Compare that to the one Promoted Tweet I got from a company that makes gluten free foods (and whom I am following). To me, it seems that Promoted Tweets are ineffective.