Last night I picked a fight with Guy Kawasaki on Twitter. For those who don’t know, Kawasaki is a marketing genius, former brand evangelist for Apple and current venture capitalist. He’s a big name. One of his current projects is Alltop, a cool little site that offers the best of the web for any particular subject (say, church?).
I called Kawasaki out over the Alltop Twitterfeed, where anyone can sign up and let Alltop post tweets to their Twitter account. It’s essentially handing over the keys to your platform and ceding your voice to a commercial. A handful of people I follow on Twitter signed up when Kawasaki offered a signed copy of his new book. I started to notice when I saw friends posting tweets about stuff they normally didn’t talk about:
Is it stork time?: http://pregnancy.alltop.com is for you.
Mostly for lawyers: Electronic Discovery news: http://ediscovery.alltop.com
If you love bags, you’ll love this site: http://bags.alltop.com
And then different friends tweeting the exact same thing. I smelled a skunk. And it was Kawasaki.
Why It’s Lame
I understand the allure of a free book. A signed book, no less. (Note: Not everyone signed up for the free book.) And Alltop is a cool site worth talking about. But my problem is that it’s not authentic conversation. If you want to tell me about Alltop, do it in your own words. Otherwise it’s spam.
For Alltop this means all they care about is spreading the word. As Kawasaki asked me, “What’s lame about 450 people helping me reach 125,000 others?” Apparently big numbers trump real conversation.
For my Twitter friends who signed up this means they’re flushing their voice and their hard-earned respect down the toilet. They’ve sold access to their followers for a book. For as much as the new media marketers talk about permission based marketing and earning the right to be heard, this boggles my mind. It’s the antithesis of authentic. You didn’t earn your right to be heard just to hand it over to some company commercial.
How to Do It Right
Go ahead and ask people to plug your products. Nothing wrong with that. Heck, bribe them if you must (free book, free shirt, exclusive access, etc.). But make sure it’s authentic. Ask people to write about your product in their own words. Giving them a framework is fine, but know that boilerplate copy from corporate isn’t going to be as effective as a customer’s own words.
Go ahead and plug products you like. But do it in your own words. Do it naturally and authentically. You don’t let a marketer speak for you when you talk to your friends in person, so why would you let them do that on Twitter? Your followers on Twitter or subscribers to your RSS feed or e-mail newsletter are people who have given you permission to talk to them. You earned that right. Don’t squander it by handing access over to a company.
The Conversation (for posterity)
I do have to give credit to Kawasaki for replying to me. That’s authentic. How cool is it that I could even have this conversation? Below is the Twitter thread:
kevinhendricks: Discovered my friends tweeting about #Alltop aren’t doing it. Bribed w/ a free book, they give access to their followers. Lame, @guykawasaki
guykawasaki: @kevinhendricks What’s lame about 450 people helping me reach 125,000 others? Have you seen http://church.alltop.com/?
kevinhendricks: @guykawasaki It’s lame when it’s not my friends telling me about #Alltop in their own words. The topic doesn’t matter.
kevinhendricks: @guykawasaki Asking people to spread the word? Cool. Doing it for them by putting words in their mouth (or tweets in their feed)? Lame.
guykawasaki: @kevinhendricks You’re jealous :-)
kevinhendricks: Did I seriously just pick a fight with @guykawasaki?
guykawasaki: @kevinhendricks It’s good for more followers for both of us. :-)
hardlynormal: @kevinhendricks : yupper that’s what it looks like LOL
kevinhendricks: @guykawasaki Not so much jealous as lightbulb: That’s why everyone keeps plugging Alltop w/ exact same lingo. Meh. Antithesis of authentic.
guykawasaki: @kevinhendricks Only if you assume perfect information and that “everyone” follows more than one person who has signed up.
kevinhendricks: @guykawasaki I follow 3-4 who are auto-tweeting for #Alltop, seems likely others are in same boat, but I’ll grant you not a huge percentage.
kevinhendricks: @guykawasaki What gets me is the auto-content. If you like #Alltop, tell me what you like. Don’t cede your voice & platform to a commercial.
tinkugallery: @kevinhendricks @guykawasaki Since we are all opting in, I don’t see it as being a problem. I will shill Guy in xchange for a signed book :)
kevinhendricks: @tinkugallery @guykawasaki You opt in but u basically sold advertising 2 Alltop. Want to plug them? Do it in your own words. That’s my take.
tinkugallery: @kevinhendricks Good point.
kevinhendricks: For the curious, I called out @guykawasaki & #alltop for asking people to auto-tweet for them: http://is.gd/2XB7 I think it’s inauthentic.
kevinhendricks: Thanks for the conversation, @guykawasaki – That’s at least authentic (and surreal!)
mattsingley: @kevinhendricks I’ve plugged Alltop dozens of times, I’ve never been told what to say.
kevinhendricks: @mattsingley Then you’re being authentic. More power to ya. I’m talking about this: https://twitterfeed.com/alltop
RadicalBender: @kevinhendricks I’m with you. It’s link spam. It’s maybe 1 step above those faux search result link farm spam things you see all over.
guykawasaki: @kevinhendricks Must be slow night in Minnesota. Do you play hockey?
joshlewis: @kevinhendricks Good on you for picking fights with Guy. I haven’t liked his work in 15 years.