IZEA Calls for Transparency, but Can Twitter Remain Pure? Ted Murphy Thinks So

A new pay-per-Tweet advertising platform determines how much your network is worth.

IZEA Calls for Transparency, but Can Twitter Remain Pure? Ted Murphy Thinks So

Like the old pitch for Ivory Soap, Twitter remains 99 and 5/8% pure. A recent purge eliminated thousands of spammers and bots, and so far none of the upstart advertising services have managed to take hold. Not even Ashton Kutcher–despite his avid use and 3 million+ following–can turn 140
characters (or a twitpic of his wife’s ass) into gold. But Izea, which connects sponsors with Twitter users on a pay-per-Tweet basis, could change that.


Sponsored Tweets, an advertising program that IZEA officially launched yesterday, is seeking a piece
of that oh-so-tweet pie (word-of-mouth marketing is now a $1.5 billion industry). In a transparent and ethical kind of way, of course. So says Ted Murphy, the CEO and founder of IZEA, who earnestly believes that with its built-in engine of filters and checks this
“new marketplace” is going to be a more perfect union between advertisers and
popular tweeters.

According to a company statement, “the site provides cash
compensation to Tweeters in exchange for sharing messages with their
followers.” So how much is a tweet

Murphy says a potential user simply has to plug in his or her
Twitter account and Sponsored Tweets runs through a protocol of analytics that
determines a price per tweet based on number of followers, a
rating, and other criteria.


Jessica Gottlieb, a mommy blogger and early adopter (she
signed up before the site went officially live) says she filled out the application
and took their suggested price. With over 9,000 followers and a pretty active
time-line, Gottlieb’s tweets are worth just over $22. “I don’t know if that is exorbitant or the
best bargain around,” she laughs. (With just over 2,100 followers and about ten
tweets a day, mine are worth a paltry $3.15

“There isn’t a formula for setting price. But then, how
could there be?” asks Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs and a
member of IZEA’s advisory committee. “The formulas that exist in modern
advertising were just made up at one point, and then perfected as time went
on,” he says. Though he can’t definitively comment on the process because he
was not in that meeting, he will say that the thinking behind it was, “Based on
other media. A ‘what will the market bear’ kind of thing.”

There is the potential to increase revenue based on the
number of click-throughs, says Murphy. That price is a fraction of the
per-tweet cost. (Mine = fifteen cents.) To
watch traffic, “We give the tweeters unique URLs and track clicks through
Google analytics,” says Murphy. They use the same tools
available to anyone; no technology has been created especially for this
endeavor. “It’s a simple integration
with Web-tracking tools,” he says.


But simple is where it’s at for Sponsored Tweets. It’s easy
for anyone to sign up, and easy for an advertiser to quickly get “the whole
picture” of a potential paid tweeter.

Murphy says that simplicity lends itself to transparency,
which is paramount to the success of the whole enterprise. “It is the biggest issue with Magpie,” Murphy
explains. Magpie, a Twitter advertising
network, works on a similar principle of pay-per-tweet, but Murphy points out,
“they are a closed service with auto-generated ads,” providing no relevant

“I’ve never seen a reputable brand on Magpie,” he adds, and
counters that Sponsored does “everything by choice. Advertising is
all manually approved.”


Everything passes through Twitter’s OAuth process,
protecting the users’ passwords. A short video demonstrates how approvals are
done. There is even a section for
advertisers to educate them on what they can and can’t ask of a tweeters’

Just because it is manual doesn’t mean it’s slow. During just one day of operations, Murphy
says the service expanded its reach to 10 million twitter timelines, and seen
interest from celebrities and advertisers. Due to contractual obligations, Murphy says
he can’t name everyone, but he’s already snagged
some “Web celebs” such as Elle of YouTube “All That Glitters 21” fame and
singer/songwriter Ernie Halter.

Murphy also alludes to the fact that some celebrities are
already cashing in for casual tweets about products. “The reality is it is already happening. We want to bring more structure and bring it
above-board.” Sponsored Tweets demands 100 percent disclosure.


“If you paid money for any part of the
relationship, even if that money is in dispensing of products for review or the
like, disclose it,” advises Brogan in a recent blog post. “Keep a disclosure section alive and well anywhere that these
experiences take place. Is there more to it than that?”

Sponsored tweeting has its critics, namely Alan Wolk,
creative strategist and founder of The Toad Stool. A 20-year veteran of the advertising
industry, Wolk is not convinced that pay-per-tweet advertising is going to
work. “We sort of accept that
celebrities don’t like many of the products they advertise.” And while he believes one tweet a month might
be acceptable from the likes of Ashton Kutcher (and worth a $10K price tag)
more than that is too much. “When
original content turns into an ad you turn more people off than you gain,” he says.

Another veteran of marketing and branding, Olivier
Blanchard, is not so sure. As a brand
strategist, the owner of The Brand Builder engaged in a tweeted debate with several of his followers about IZEA. “That’s where social works, I think:
if you already know that I love Nutella, and I already tweet about it, it can
work. I know I wouldn’t abuse it, but many folks would assume I have sold out.
I don’t want that.”


For Jessica Gottlieb, it is simple. “Writing [to get a free]
bottle of shampoo is skeevy. Writing for a paycheck is smart. Even in 140 characters.”

Related Stories:
What Is Twitter? Apparently, No One Knows
Would You Twitter If Your Tweet Carried a $50,000 Price Tag?



About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.