In the amusing world of off-the-mark Twitter adver-followers, I’m caught by surprise: a well-targeted one

People who spend any time on twitter are familiar with the adver-followers.  You see with delight that you have a new follower, only to realize that the account now following you isn’t really a person at all.  Instead, it’s a company, and the only reason they are following you is in order to make you aware of their product.  It’s a new form of advertising – adver-following.

The concept itself is brilliant, at least for the advertiser.  Since twitter profile bios are public, they provides a great opportunity for free, targeted advertising.  Run keyword searches on bios or streams that seem relevant to your product, and then start following these people.  It doesn’t matter whether they follow you back or not.  Most people will be excited to see that someone is following them and take a moment to look at who the new follower is, which means that they will actually read the ad.  Even the very best google ads are completely ignored by most people, so this is truly a marketing gold mine.

I find a real mixture in the targeting success of the adver-followers who latch on to my profile.  There seem to be thousands of “social media experts” just waiting to tell me how I can expand my business using social meda if I purchase their services; I guess anyone on twitter would be a candidate.  Others are more relevant, picking up on my tweets about DNS, SQL Server, and other web technologies and pitching me about their services in software and content delivery.  Definitely the right demographic, but nothing I have been interested in thus far.

The ones I really love are the near misses – the ones that have clearly attempted to target but misinterpreted my profile.  I am frequently followed by construction workers, landscapers, and other housing related companies.  They see the word “architect” in my profile and assume that their services must be relevant, not understanding the difference between a “software architect” and someone who designs buildings.

Another category of mis-targeted followers are the ones in UK, specifically around Cambridge, England.  They are hawking restaurants, real estate, and other location specific services.  They see the word “Cambridge” in my profile, and don’t pay attention to the fact that it is followed by the letters “MA”, indicating Massachusetts, not England.  Oh well.

To my amazement, I found myself clicking through to an adver-follower’s websites for the first time last week.  Shortly after my post about my difficulties wrestling my iPad out of the hands of my three-year-old daughter, I found myself being followed by @papercliprobot.  They make covers for the home buttons on iPhones and iPad’s that make it very difficult for young children to press, but still possible for adults, kind of like a child safety cap on a bottle of medicine.  This makes it possible to keep a child in the application you start them in and not wandering off to other applications, like YouTube.

This was a big part of what I was writing the post about, so they were dead on with the targeting.  I’m guessing they search for posts that contain “toddler” and “iPad” (and many other relevant combinations as well), and then follow anyone who uses the terms in a tweet.

Alas for them, I still didn’t buy it, but I have never been so tempted, mostly because I am worried about damaging the surface of my phone if I don’t like it and try to remove it.  Perhaps they just need to tweak their landing page to address these concerns 😉

I can’t imagine that the adver-following marketing goldmine will last long.  It will only be a matter of time before people develop adver-follower-detectors and mark them as junk, just like SPAM detection.  Hmmm, might be a good idea for a startup.

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