You Can't Pay Me To Do That

Posted by

At what price integrity?

There was book on the future of advertising (or media… or something) that was being offered for free. I clicked the link, read the synopsis and thought to myself, "why not! I’ll download it, find some time and peruse the book." Then, I clicked on the link to download it and was suddenly told that I have to tweet about the book before being able to download it. The service that this author was using is called, Pay With A Tweet. The tweet made me feel uncomfortable. I’m probably in the minority here. My guess is that the majority of people would be willing to shill to their network with a single tweet if it meant scoring a free book. I mean, after all, it’s just a measly tweet… who cares? What’s the big deal?

The big deal.

I prefer to see, read, acknowledge and think that whatever I put into whatever social media stream is something that I think you will value. It made me feel immensely uncomfortable tweeting about something that could be junk. It made me feel immensely uncomfortable that people think this is good marketing. To me, it all felt kind of dirty and wrong. Why would anyone want me to send a message to my entire social graph about something that I have yet to spend any time with?

It’s a trade-off.

I know what you’re thinking: a tweet for a free book is a fair deal. It may be. I’m not sure. I’d have to read the book first and then decide… and isn’t that the point? Here are the two ways to look at this:

  1. I tweet. I get the book. It’s very transactional. For sending a message to my network (and spreading the word that this book exists), I get the book. Whether I love the book or hate the book, the deal is done. I’ve done what was asked of me.
  2. I get the book. I tweet. It’s very human. Because I got a free book and because it blew mind (let’s face it, if anyone is going to publish a book, let’s make sure it blows our minds), I’ll do anything for the author. What happens next? I’ll tell everyone (and so will you). It won’t just be a tweet, it could be something on LinkedIn and Facebook too. I may write a blog post about it. I may email my close friends and tell them to pick it up. I may want to interview the author for my podcast. I may even want to write it up as one of my regular columns. Who knows? When a consumer derives value – especially from something that was given to them for free – they become the best kind of evangelist.

You can’t pay me to shill to you.

Here’s why I don’t like to tweet for a book (or anything like it, for that matter): I respect the relationship between me and my followers. If I tweet for a book, I get a book and you’re the pawns. I’m using you to get something and you do not benefit from the exchange (that’s not a win-win scenario). It’s the same reason I do not complain about brands or customer service issues that I encounter: I do not want to use my social graph as leverage. That’s not part of our social agreement. It falls outside of the parameters of the social contract that I have both created and do my best to enforce.

It’s just a tweet.

Maybe it’s just a tweet to you. Maybe you think that the majority of your followers are probably not seeing it anyways, so what’s the big deal? Maybe. For me, it just feels like I’m being asked to broadcast something to my group that I have not vetted. I’m being asked to share something regardless of how I feel about it. In a world where everyone of us is a media channel and publishing content in text, images, audio and video in a near real-time and constant flow, I’m doing everything I can to hold my content and the valuable relationship I have with those connected to me to a higher standard. I’m fine if you consider me a snob. I’m fine if you think I’m being overly-dramatic about nothing more than a simple tweet. I believe that the brands that win are the ones who will hold themselves to a higher standard.

What do you believe?


  1. I’m with you! If I tweet, RT, MT, share… it’s because I have taken an interest in what I’m sharing.
    btw LUV InfiniGraph! Tweeting at @Sherbeam

  2. Mitch,
    I’m with you 100%. This is a shabby and unprofessional practice, and it deserves to be called out. Obviously, this person or company does not believe in the value of their product; if they did, they would not demand your public promotion of it before you even received it.
    Yes, the multitudes may not find anything wrong with this practice – for the reasons you mentioned – but for those who are looking to separate themselves from the pack, this type of thing is good to avoid. Otherwise, your tweets have lost their meaning and you have lost your hard-earned brand.
    It’s good to see a line drawn in the sand; keep drawing it as a reminder that without serious thought given to issues such as this, each of us will find ourselves mired in mediocrity and lacking any professional integrity.

  3. I see no problem with “I get the book. I tweet”. I think that is a fair deal. Now of course I’m going to give my honest opinion. If I like it, I say I do. If I don’t like it, I say I don’t. I think this is more than human, it’s honest.
    I really try to live by “If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing at all”. I rarely give negative reviews but am more than willing to give a positive one.
    One may consider that the author must be fairly confident that he actually wrote something that is both compelling and engaging. If not, the strategy probably won’t work out that well.

  4. If it goes against what you believe, you shouldn’t do it that is for certain.
    No book is worth your values.
    What I will say, I think it depends on the actual Tweet.
    If it was to say something like:
    “I’ve just downloaded this super awesome book that you should too”
    Well, this is not good. If it is more subtle and leaves your opinion open, this is better.
    It’s good that you stand by your values, though. Many people don’t.
    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  5. Mitch I have to agree with you on this. Tweeting or sharing something to my network that I haven’t read or endorsed doesn’t strike me as a responsible behaviour. It will also compromise my reputation as an insightful blogger and thought leader, especially if the content is crap.

  6. Totally agree with you, Mitch. If I get a chance to review the item (book, app or otherwise) first and deem it worthy of a tweet, I’ll gladly exchange the tweet for the item, and I’ll make sure the tweet includes content that I’m looking forward to checking it out. In the bookstore, I get to do that — peruse a book before spending my cash on it — why would I spend social currency without first being able to do a little research?

  7. Last week a flyer came in the mail from a local promo-premiums company promising very low prices on logo wear, with surprisingly low minimum quantities. I went through the process of sending in jpegs and choosing possible shirt styles and quickly received two quotations which included an unexpected substantial set-up charge. This fee could be avoided (bringing the cost back down to what was shown in the fyler) by becoming their Facebook friend.

  8. If you want to tweet it, but not broadcast the message, just put @randomusername like @fe @gn in front of the message and nobody will see it.

  9. I found the same tweet offer in my stream just 20 minutes ago and also went the distance to get teh book but stopped when it meant pressing the button to tweet in exchange for the book.
    It’s funny even though i suspect half of my followers are spam accounts, or the like, I couldn’t do it. Your clarity on this helped me to understand why.

  10. I have to agree. Forced tweeting just turns me off. I’m happy to spread the word throughout my network when I find something of value. What if I follow the steps, tweet it, it’s trash, and now MY reputation is bruised. Nope. No Way.

  11. I think what is happening here is the classic push back against overt sales technique that I see everyday. When training sales people these days I go the extra mile to force these tendencies out of them!
    The requirement for value creation and authenticity is way more important now, if nothing else, i think this is down to the enormous amounts of competion out there.
    Years ago the book in question might have been the only one of its type available to you through your personal channels, and you might have had less choice about agreeing to the requested price!
    These days we are able to be more chosey about the brands we deal with, and thank goodness for that.
    This kind of low level sales aproach has a place, but as you say, trying to leverage other peoples personal networks in this way doesnt seem to be it
    Fantasic thoughful and thought provoking piece. Thanks!

  12. The thing I find most interesting from this post isn’t the “should you Tweet for free stuff” conversation, but the idea that we now value a tweet higher than money.
    Stop to think about the exchange you have with Amazon, or favorite book store. You “walk” in, see a book that either has been recommended, or just appears interesting and you get to read a little before making determining if you are going to A) purchase, or B) set the book back down.
    While I’ve walked away from any books that didn’t appear worth my $20, that is where the transaction for me stopped.
    However, reading your post I too thought “yeh, I wouldn’t shill out my tweet for that.” Thus giving a tweet, or more importantly my online network, a higher value than a simple monetary transaction.
    Just an interesting aside.

  13. Totally agree. I try and share stuff of value – if I don’t know what the value is, how can I commend it? My reputation is on the line. And as for changing your mind if the book was rubbish and putting out a second tweet to say so? How does that look? Who will trust my next recommendation?
    No thanks. Either you give something of value away or you charge for it. You don’t give it away with caveats. If it’s good, folks will share the info.
    The moral is – make sure its’ good.

  14. I agree Mitch…it takes time to do things the right way and build your company/brand/personal reputation…but it works if you have a quality product. The process cannot be short-circuited.
    Our 24/7, instant communication capabilities do not give us the right (or the ability) to bypass the natural process of becoming a proponent of a product or service. We can share things quickly to our network, but getting from trial to being a believer in what your selling takes as much time as it ever has, being built as it is on a relationship of trust.

  15. I feel the same way about contests that require you to broadcast something. What is the user getting out of that, except to tell their followers they don’t value their attention?

  16. Hiope you don’t mind Mr Joel, I’d like to link to this article on my blog and will be commenting on the topic too. Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Just assuming here that we don’t like Like-gating either, correct? I’ve always found the idea of asking someone to provide you positive social proof before they have evaluated whether or not they like what you’re doing a sleazy marketing practice that devalues social signals and telegraphs an insecurity about one’s work product (or content, etc.). And yet, I see like-gating far more often than I see tweet-gating.

  18. Absolutely – putting your reputation in someone else’s hands sight-unseen is a quick way to destroying it.

  19. I agree with you – why should I tweet about something that I don’t know about? My followers wouldn’t appreciate it. Sure, some of them follow tons and tons of people so my tweet might not even be seen. But some of my closest friends follow just a few people and they click on almost everything I share. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I sent them to something bad.

  20. We agree that getting forced into tweeting or pushing out other social content on your behalf is not the way to go. At Social Influencers, we only connect those who are aligned with the product/business already. It is important for your network to understand that this is your own voice and not the forced voice of the business. We have a transparent system so you know exactly what you’re getting paid/paying for.

  21. I agree that it doesn’t seem right.
    But it’s wholly predictable – every aspect of the internet that starts out as “authentic” eventually gets harnessed for commercial gain. Email, blogs, chat rooms, messaging have all gone the same way.
    What are the chances that a critical mass of the Twitter community will hold firm to their integrity? I’d like to say “high”, but sadly I’m thinking “low”.

  22. I am not a member of Twitter or Facebook, so I am out for that reason alone. However, I would certainly not tweet unless I had read enough of the book to form an opinion.

  23. Hi Mitch,
    Agreed: It is a big deal. It’s not just the difference between transactional and human (which is really the perceived value of that tweet), but also — and more importantly — reputational.
    My reputation is not for sale.
    This made me think of something that happened to a friend recently. She went to a meetup type lunch with three other people. One of them jumped up for the bill, and said she had an ulterior motive, a favor to ask. She then gave the others copies of her new book and asked them if they could please read it and write a review on Amazon.
    Don’t know if my friend read the book. I know she doesn’t write reviews.

  24. i agree with your reaction to this marketing technique. I am so tired of seeing and hearing “like us on Facebook” everywhere. It’s more invasive than old-fashioned direct mail flyers ever were….at least you could use those to good purpose once in a while…like padding a box before shipping. Why in the world should I be urged to “like” the local news station’s news coverage??? It’s a waste of my time to “like” on Facebook everything thing under the sun…no thanks. I almost never use my FB account anymore. It’s too much of a time waste to see what most people post most of the time. Too bad, because at first it was nice to see photos from old friends. And I certainly don’t tweet…more fluff than I have time to read.

  25. New to the arena and finally getting used to twitter, not sure I like this idea of pay with a tweet. I will happily tweet, retweet,etc any novel or anything else I truly like. But not just because. Good post and comments.

  26. Can you edit the Tweet from this Pay With a Tweet? I mean if you could edit and say something like, “haven’t read but looks good,” or “will report back with top ten ideas,” something to that effect. I am not offended totally by the idea. it really isn’t a simple tweet, but it’s not the scarlet letter either.
    Thoughtful blog post – thanks.
    Patricia Weber

  27. I remember doing it once very early on when it started seeping into people’s marketing tactics, to get access to an eBook that was then such a let down I then deleted the tweet.
    It’s too much of a reputation risk – I’ve been asked by some people I’ve worked with if they should do it, and I always advise against it.
    On the other hand, if you are considering it, it forces you to make sure that the content is of incredible use and value before you publish it and ask people for the tweet.

  28. Hey Mitch –
    Great thoughts here. I totally agree with you, but I think you can use PWAT in a way that doesn’t piss people off. You can have a way for them to download the book without tweeting about it or sharing it on Facebook. You’re right in that a lot of people have different uses for different social networks. For example, I’m much more willing to spam my Facebook friends than my Twitter followers to get something for free.
    I actually wrote a post around this topic recently –

  29. I think the language of this giveaway is what really turned you off. It would turn me off, too! ‘Pay with a tweet” just makes me feel cheep.
    I sometimes participate in twitter giveaways, when if you RT the information you can receive tickets or something of the sort. Sometimes even my friends pick up a giveaway from me and RT as well, if it’s about something we all like. But it is clear from the beginning that this is a giveaway and you must send a tweet to participate. If one isn’t comfortable tweeting about that they don’t participate in the giveaway. At this point you were already downloading it, so it is a bit of a trick. If I was expecting ‘free download’ and then halfway it became clear I have to sign up for something I would exit as well.

  30. Wow! I’m pleasantly surprised at how many people agree with you.
    Free & tweet are often used together as though a tweet is so close to valueless, cheep cheep, that it should be considered free …
    I personally find another route, I despise being told something is free only to find out it isn’t.

Comments are closed.