Riddle me this … TweetJacking or Citizen Branding?

I use TweetDeck to follow mentions of ThinkPad and Lenovo on Twitter.  For the past few weeks a new phenomenon has popped up, one that confuses me to no end.

So we have a user @moon, who tweets, fairly frequently, variations on the following message:

On Monday Groundhog Day I’m giving away a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 RT @moon 3 times and be the first to RT a selected Tweet on GHD”

Then he posts variations of that promotion by inserting the name of a well known “A-list” blogger or Twitterer — like @chrisbrogan or @scoble.

1. I don’t know what GHD is. [duh: GHD=Ground Hog Day]

2. I have no clue who Paul Mooney is. He has a website http://www.neuronspark.com but I can’t figure out what the business is. There are tons of affiliate marketing links on the right sidebar.

3. Why would he give away a $400 netbook? Is this an example of a grassroots promotion and by running his own contest he hopes to get more attention to his twitter ID and hence more followers?

4. Why is he inserting the names of @twitter celebrities?

It is very effective — @moon has dominated the Lenovo brand name in Twitter for a month, has induced tons of people to “RT” his giveaway, and in the end, got my attention, for I am writing this blog post, and sent him a direct ping asking “what is compelling you to give away the S10” and observing:  “moon: Why do you retweet your giveaway to every social media person like chrisheuer, jowyang, etc? Seems like spam at this point”

He replied: “I know chrisheuer and jowyang so I was hoping they would reTweet the giveaway.”

And I said:  “moon: just concerned because of Dec. KMART incident with XXXXXX and Izea/Payperpost people. Don’t want lenovo associated with that”

To which he replied he wanted to do the promo with Lenovo.

So here’s the observation. If you manage a brand online, get ready for people to leverage it — both professional and personal — for their own gain.The big question is whether to grease the skids and enable it, stand by and watch it happen, or send in the clowns and get all legal.

The question is this: should I be giving product to bloggers and twitter users to activate this sort of self-managed promotion/contest or am I on shaky legal/ethical ground? I did rip into the “Blog Slut” phenomenon and don’t want to demean the Lenovo brand name by getting into any kind of payola arrangements. That aside, @moon has pounded the word Lenovo and gotten other people to Tweet it far more than the usual organic flow of the conversation would have. So should I shut up and be happy for the free branding?

Brands run into this with affiliate marketing programs all the time. If you give people an incentive to market on your behalf you may not be happy with their techniques they use to do it. This one just has me perplexed.

As one twitter user just said to my ardeht Lenovo promoter: “@moon This is a very clever promotion you’re running. Bet you’ll get lots of new followers and interest in what you do.”

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