I have to admit that I merely scanned a recent announcement by XMPie about a Twitter promotion they are running to highlight their presence at MediaPro 09. It wasn't until I received an email from a reader this morning that I took a closer look.
Details on how the campaign works can be found at David Baldero's blog. I'm told David was the technical mastermind behind the campaign.
Essentially you follow a special Twitter account that was set up for the promotion (@XMPieMediaPro09), the account notices a new follower and sends a DM (direct message in Twitter) automatically with a generated RURL (response URL). The RURL is personalized with your first name and the pitch.
Here's the rub.
The page wants you to authorize them to tweet out on your behalf. The fine print:
By authorising yourself we ask you to log- into your Twitter account to validate who you are. In doing so, you are also allowing XMPie to update your twitter status; and we will only ever send ONE tweet from your account promoting this campaign.
I always wonder why fine print needs to exist at all. If you aren't hiding anything, aren't trying to dupe me, and your marketing copy is clear, then why do you need any fine print? In this case, the marketing copy leads me to believe that I need to click on that "Authorise" button in order to "continue this personalised experience and to obtain your exclusive 'All-Access' pass to the XMPie Innovation Showcase". The reason for the fine print is that I have to let XMPie tweet for me in order to continue my personalized experience.
Up to this point I'd say this is a pretty neat application and an example of using different media together in a pretty compelling way. The campaign goes from Twitter, to web, to print. I'm assuming there may have also been an email component as well. But asking Twitter users to authorize you to tweet on their behalf is something that raises an immediate red flag for me. Twitter is not merely a broadcast medium, it's a conversation. People rarely forget that. Companies often do. It seemed to me that this was a way to bypass the conversation and go straight for the broadcast. With my permission, of course. For conversation to happen I - as the user - need to be a part of it. Handing over my part of the conversation seems a bit odd to me.
Some might call this outright spam. It may have the feel of spam, but I think this term is thrown about all too frequently. I wouldn't say they are spamming, but I would recommend a different implementation. What I would do is send people to a personalized landing page with a "Retweet this" pitch and instructions for picking up their personalized printed badge. If you see the Twitter platform as a word of mouth analogy this seems like the logical thing to do. You wouldn't tell someone about an event and then ask them if it would be OK if you spoke to all of their friends about it on their behalf. You'd ask THEM to speak to their friends. You certainly wouldn't email then and ask them for their login credentials so you could then email all their friends! Authorized or not, this just seems to be the wrong approach.
I spoke with David Baldaro and another XMPie associate on the MediaPro09 show floor in London earlier today and we discussed the campaign. Their intent was to both demonstrate a cross media campaign using Twitter and to generate buzz about XMPie's Innovation Showcase at the show. The impetus for the badge printing was to expedite access for those most wanting to see the showcase. Great idea. When I shared my opinion of the one element I disagreed with, Baldero did say that if done again he would probably look at this closer and may not use the "authorize to tweet in my name" feature.
The reader who contacted me about this today had a certain perception driven by the nature of the campaign and the fine print. They said:
"Try to follow XMPieMediaPro09 on Twitter and see what happens, they impersonate your Twitter account and DM your followers"
Those running the campaign obviously have a different perception of it. They'd say they are just sending out a "viral" message that the Twitter user specifically authorized. This doesn't change the perception of the person who feels duped, though. An old boss of mine used to repeat a certain phrase until everyone around him was sick of it: Perception is Reality.
Talking to XMPie today, I am quite certain that they had no evil attempts to impersonate or hijack anyone's Twitter account. They've received the same kind of mixed feedback on the campaign that we have. David notes that long time Twitter users seem to be more sensitive to the issue than those who are not as familiar with the platform. So far they appear to be getting an overwhelmingly positive response. Of the more than 100 people who are following the special account, there have been only a few negative comments and accusations of spamming.
Despite my disagreement about the specific implementation of the campaign, I have to give XMPie a great deal of credit for pushing the limits of cross media and attempting a Twitter-to-web-to-print integration. At the end of the day the nice thing about using social media in business is that we are all in this together learning how to use these platforms to connect. Acceptable practices are still being developed in this new social media landscape. It's important that we have robust discussions - and sometimes disagreements - so that we can learn how to best leverage social media in our campaigns.
Update: David Baldaro has an after-action post up about their experiences with this campaign that is worth checking out. Given this post and Jacob's comments below I think they have learned a great deal from doing this and I again applaud them for pushing the envelope in integrating social media with online and print media.