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Announcement by The Associated Press to include Samsung-sponsored Tweets is part of an evolving platform

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The Associated Press announced it will begin having sponsored tweets on its Twitter feed and Samsung will be the first company to take part in it.

Twitter has had advertising for some time in the form of Promoted Tweets – tweets purchased by advertisers that appear in targeted users’ Twitter feeds. The Promoted Tweets are denoted with the sponsor’s name or a little orange box and white arrow so they can be clearly identified on users’ feeds.

In addition to Tweets, sponsors may have promoted trends on Twitter.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Twitter updated its terms of service in 2010 to ensure that advertisers only promoted their tweets in this Promoted Tweet format rather than infusing spam-like promotions through individual users’ accounts. AP’s Samsung announcement seems to fall somewhere in the middle.

Samsung will provide sponsored tweets through AP’s primary Twitter account during the upcoming 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Leveraging Samsung as a sponsor for this high-profile tech event might help expand advertising beyond an individual Twitter feed and make sense to the public.

AP stated in a release: “The effort builds on AP’s expansion into new advertising for mobile and social media.”

In the past, new advertising platforms for mobile and social media has developed traction with the media and and sometimes backlash from the public. Do you remember the Instagram debacle of 2012? Perhaps ‘debacle’ is an exaggeration, but Instagram’s moment in the spotlight certainly caused a stir among my social media community.

Infographic and GIF from fastcodesign.com describes Instagram’s impact

When Instagram announced new terms of service in December 2012, users took to their social media accounts to complain. The new terms of service implied that Instagram would be able to take users’ photos and use them in promotions. The social media community panicked. My own social media feeds were flooded with pleas from others to delete my account to protest the insanity.

Instagram quickly retracted the new terms and released an apology and clarified what it had intended. Titled, “Thank you, and we’re listening,” the blog post stated that legal documents were easily misunderstood and that it would clarify its meaning in a less elusive, and more concrete manner. Instagram experienced the downside to presenting the public with a big idea rather than exact details – especially when it comes to people’s privacy and their understanding of advertising.

As Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has seen in the past, people become uncomfortable with social media and advertising worlds colliding. In Instagram’s blog post apology, it made a simple, yet – I believe –necessary statement: “From the start, Instagram was created to become a business.”

Because we have incorporated our personal lives so much into social media, it is often forgotten that social media exists as a business commodity first and foremost – perhaps because ways to monetize the new media platforms often come months and years after their launch. Unfortunately, the medium has grown so quickly, it may take a while for perceptions to catch up. The Associated Press and Instagram are not the first to discuss their advertising tactics with social media and they will not be the last.

As the WSJ article eloquently states in its coverage of AP’s announcement, “plenty of media companies have very popular Twitter feeds and commercial departments keen to find new revenue sources.”

As social media’s audience and influence grows, we cannot expect money to stay out of the conversation. If we want our media to continue meeting our needs, we cannot always seem so astonished and offended when they announce they need money in order to do so.

  – Bailee Bowman

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