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.”

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

10 thoughts on “Riddle me this … TweetJacking or Citizen Branding?”

  1. Tweet sluts are no different than blog whores– and I suspect you know specificallywho I’m talk about Dave. It’s as outrgeous as it’s widespread.
    Kill ’em and eat ’em, or ignore ’em and treat you marketing plan with an antiparasitc.
    Two cents.


  2. Maybe he just wants one for himself and figures when he finally contacted someone at Lenovo they would throw him a bone. (perhaps not the best way to do it but nonetheless maybe he had some success before with other products at other companies.)

  3. Wolfy – All you need to know is that I like to shred and I like to write and I like my friends. That and I'm incredibly handsome, witty, smart, badass, hardcore, and badass.
    Mike says:

    Mr. Churbuck,

    That seems scammy. I don’t know about random give aways like that. It’s too much like those pop up windows you get giving away free software and junk mail. I bet people generally disregard that kind of thing. At least it looks bad.

    As a blogger and content creator I’d be stoked to be sponsored by Lenovo. I might do a post or video review of the product, but more than that I’d add sponsor notes to my work to show that Lenovo facilitates what it do. I currently do all my photo editing, video editing, and writing on a Lenovo, so i think the Lenovo brand or quality, rugged and powerful laptops fits with my brand as a content creator. Technology is just a stepping stone for me. I don’t care too awfully much about gadgetry and techiness, but if someone shows that creativity can be facilitated by a product, I take notice and usually act.

    I wouldn’t see that as being ethically shaky. I’d like to see winning a product tied to some kind of contest. Like photo contests, writing, video, blogging. Something that actually engages the community. Perhaps “funniest tweet about Bruce Springsteen’s crotch wins a Lenovo s110…” That might get more attention and buzz in the end.


  4. I know Paul and he was at the Ultimate Blogger Dinner briefly, but I dont think you both met.

    It really comes down to what environment was the brand placed within from my perspective – it also is a question of what is your legal policies when someone buys one of your products and puts it into a silent auction or sweepstakes historically.

    In this case here I would embrace the citizen marketer, giving away a great product to draw up some attention. The challenge would come if the person in question didn’t give away the product as stated and/or if the individual was acting in good faith. Generally speaking lawyers want to shut down the possibility of having to deal with these sorts of things so they say no up front – cant possibly manage an army of citizen marketers though, so best to let the situation run its course, stay on top of it, make sure that the person does disclose the source of the prize (ie, Lenovo didnt give it to them, isn’t involved, the reason for the contest is and the source of the prize is)

    Best to clear up with direct communication and be grateful that you now have another entry in the ‘working in social media environments FAQ for the company, and your fans’

  5. Chris
    Thanks for verifying Paul. You hit my concern on the head. Anyone who has ever been in the same zip code as a lawyer confronted with a corporate sweepstake/content/giveaway knows the drill.

    Empowering customers to run contests isn’t my thing. I know Izea is pushing that, but it’s straying into ethical muddiness. I need to talk to my buddies at BrandMovers — they did contest management for an Olympic torch bearer contest and kept us off the rocks in some hairy legal situations across multiple countries.

    Working FAQ indeed.

  6. I was about to give similar thoughts and concerns but then I read Chris Heuer’s response, he pretty much covers it. Biggest concern: linking of Lenovo’s brand to what could be an attempt at scamming people to follow this twitterererer. But, in the meantime, learning from Paul’s attempts at @twitter viral marketing could be valuable. But this is a slippery slope.

  7. Isn’t the other and maybe larger question his unethically using other’s names in the program. He may be buying his Lenovo to give away, but he is taking the good name of Chris Brogan and others in vain. Sending to them just so he can use their names in his own retweet seems like the sleaziest part of this.

    1. Agreed, but when I called him on it he said he knew these people and hoped they would retweet him. In the end, I suspect its all about getting higher rank on the retweetist list and he definitely cracked the top 50 with this stunt.

  8. Murray Izenwasser – By day, I am a senior level marketer with a focus on B2B marketing, client/user research, interactive, social media, eStrategy, and web design and development. By night I am the father of 3 beautiful, talented kids, and the husband of the divine Miss J. Please keep in mind that the postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent any employer's positions, strategies or opinions. Or those of my family.
    Murray Izenwasser says:

    I’m surprised that people are thinking that platforms like Twitter WON’T have people (I’m not going to call them marketers) who are going to abuse the platform, regardless of the overall consequences. Remember website Pop-ups? At first they were actually an effective marketing tool, touted as a great way to reach an audience. And then got massively abused. Same with email. And we are now seeing mobile voice and txt spam. I keep my home fax unplugged – I still get faxspam.

    Why would Twitter or any other social media platform be immune? There will always be clients that will want to get their name out at any cost, and providers that will fill that desire.

    In the long run, white hat marketers will prevail. But if you want to make a quick buck, there is always a new platform ripe for abuse.

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