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Is Twitter Selling Links and What in the World is a ‘Promotion’

Posted By Darren Rowse 9th of October 2008 Social Media 0 Comments

Yesterday I logged onto Twitter and find a little addition to their sidebar. It says ‘Get some Perspective’ and contains a link ‘Watch Hack the Debate‘.

Here’s how it looks.


So I have two reactions to this.

1. How much more politics does Twitter need?

I’m sick of the ‘election bar’ that continues to appear when I visit Twitter. I’ve closed it many times but it continues to appear. I thought perhaps it was just me or at least just a frustration that other Non US Twitter users had seeing that Election promotion – but when I tweeted about it I only had 2-3 out of 50-60 responses that were positive about the election bar (including US Twitter users).

WIth the election bar and now a sidebar link Twitter seems to be moving away from their ‘what are you doing’ type focus. Sure a lot of the world is ‘doing’ elections but a large number of the world is also sick of them.

I do think that the US election is important but I’d love to see them give us the choice to opt out of this type of ‘promotion’ or at least to know if it’s an ad or not. But maybe that’s just me?

2. Is this a partnership, paid link… or?

My first reaction when seeing the link was that it looked a lot like an advertisement. There’s no marking of it as such but it does seem a little odd to just have an unexplained link to a political site just sitting there on the sidebar of a social media site under one’s stats.

When you look at the ‘source code’ of a twitter page you see that the link is tagged as a ‘promotion’ (click to enlarge the source code):


Interesting…. but what is a promotion?

On the site it links to ( it says that Current and Twitter have ‘teamed up’ – so it looks like some kind of ‘partnership’ but that doesn’t really explain it fully.

Now I’ve got nothing against Twitter monetizing with advertising, but I’d love for them to disclose whether that is actually an ad or not. If it is – they might want to ‘nofollow’ it or they might just find themselves penalized by Google for trying to game them (or for helping someone else game them at least).

What do you think?

Update – Evan Williams from Twitter has kindly commented below clarifying the situation. You can read his comments here. The most important clarification (in my mind) is that the link is not a paid link at all but a voluntary link. Thanks Evan!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Liz

    I’m all for the internationalization of Twitter. Hell, it is already happening, the US community just has to realize it.

    I enjoy the election bar but it seems obvious that there should be a filter that just shows this to US Twitterers not to all users. That’s not difficult to determine, right? Just what country your connection originates from.

    As for the advertising, I don’t really have an opinion yet. I don’t see how Twitter can continue in good health without having some way to monetize (god, I hate that word) the site so I’ll wait & see how far it goes.

  • I’m in your corner on this one. Tweets since the beginning of the US debate season have gone totally political, awfully snarky and at times are down right rude. I’m an American and have a vested interest in the election, but I don’t like having info, particularly biased info, shoved at me at every turn.

    As well, it would be nice if the folks at twitter would come clean, and let us know if indeed these sidebar things are paid ads or what.

    Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. again.

  • I agree with you about the election tool bar at the top. I closed it far too many times that I lost count. I live in Canada, and although American politics somewhat affects us, but many of us Canadian loose interest ever so quickly from the details. I think we choose to see it if we want, but forcing it in our face is not affective at all. Just frustrates the rest of the non-Americans who use Twitter.

    As for sponsors, I don’t care if Twitter starts using text sponsors. But if they start bombarding us with crazy visual advertisements like Facebook does, then I will become an angry social networker!! :P

  • Good points Darren! I think it is quite courageous of you to bring this up.

    I think you are right that we should have some options and they should be more transparent about this.

  • I don’t mind the election twitter but can see how it can be a bit much.

    I would like to know if twitter is going to begin trying to monetize twitter’s traffic?

  • I’m starting to get sick of the Election bar, too. I wish it’d set a flag on my account when I close it so that whenever I log onto Twitter from any computer or device, it would keep it hidden.

    Regarding the ‘promotion’ div, it’s interesting, but since the election bar is elections-promotion, I doubt that it was a paid thing (it seems like everything election related at Twitter is “promotion”-something). It could, however, be a trade off – Twitter puts a link there and feeds a fire hose out to Current TV, and they feature tweets. Who knows, though.

  • I find the bar annoying…If I want political news, I’ll go look for it, or tweet with friends to get their opinion. Once I close the bar, I should be given the option “don’t show this again”, that would be fine with me.

    I also have no problem with them monetizing, but be more transparent about your intentions.


  • I’ve been wondering what’s up with all the political ads (or partnership, whatever). I’m in the U.S. and am sick to death of political ads period. But that’s just me.

    I wonder though, if Twitter is going to monetize wouldn’t it make more sense to get sponsors/advertisers/partners/whatever who would appeal internationally? I would estimate that half of my friends list is Canadian. I’m fairly certain they don’t care about our politics either and, hence, won’t be clicking on them.

  • It was about time twitter make some money and I guess the election was such a great opportunity that they just couldn’t miss.
    It seems like it’s not a paid ad tho. Seems like they are doing it to get more exposure in the main stream media since the tweets are going to be broadcast on television.

    But I agree there should be an option to hide it. Or with a bit of simple geo targeting even not show it for users outside US.

  • I’d have been happier if they had of focused on the US Twitter users. Even in Ireland we get the bar, and no matter how often you make it go away the next session it is back again.

  • I’m using Twitter in the UK and the link is still showing, I reckon its a cross promotion type deal and someone has forgot or overlooked implementing nofollow.

    Thing is, I can’t ever imagine Twitter getting nailed by Google and blacklisted due to its size and importance. What do you think?

  • If they want to monetize Twitter by throwing some ads on there, fine. But, I’m rarely on anyone’s profile page on twitter! The only time I’m there, if at all, is to follow someone back. I’m on Twhirl most of the time. Yeah, I don’t like the bar at the top when I log onto twitter via the web, but then I don’t pay much attention to it since I jump onto twhirl right away anyway…

  • I don’t like talking about politics too much – so I’d like to see them remove all of the politics talk especially if I click the X on the bar. I know it’s a big deal in America (and in Australia to an extent) but I don’t feel like talking about politics and they shouldn’t force the conversation.

  • I like reading people’s political tweets, but the election bar is a pain.

    Re: Advertising, No problems at all with them making a few bucks, as long as they stay out of my timeline. If tweetvertisments start showing up I will turn off.

    I agree they should be very clear what is an add and what is not.

  • Even people in US are sick of this election process, it goes on and on.

    I hope twitter gives an opt out to these links. But help is not a strong forte of twitter, you are completely on your own

  • It’s mildly annoying, but easy to ignore once I focus on a Tweet. Unless Twitter’s owners have a patent on the technology that runs the site (do they?), we could set up a similar site under a different brand and ditch all the ads, promotions, election bars or whatever they are. Problem solved! Actually, now that I said that out loud, wondering why no one else has done it already. Has anyone done it already?

  • Hey, I’m *in* the U.S. and I’m sick of the election. And I’m sick of people I follow/read/subscribe to filling their blog/tweets/etc., with political messages. If I wanted political opinions, I’d read a politics blog, not one on something else.

    *rant off*

    Meanwhile, I’ve been wondering about the text link thing. I assume it’s only bad if they’re not marked? I’ve had several people approach me about buying ads, some text, but they all seem cool with them being in an “Our Sponsors” box or similar — si that okay? Or still bad Google karma?

    ~Angela :-)

    P.S. Just came from Twitter.

  • Sharon

    Thanks for the post Darren. I’ve only had to close the election bar once, and it’s stayed that way. I’m a Canadian and I want to know what’s going on in the US. They sneeze, we catch a cold. But I do want to choose where I get my info from. As for paid promotions? Transparency please, otherwise it’s just wrong.


  • I live in the US, but I agree that Twitter should stick to doing what they do best and dump the election bar, or at least make it opt-in. There’s already a wealth of twitters about the elections, as well as a flood of websites and blogs to go to for election news.

    I don’t mind if Twitter wants to monetize their service. In fact, I’ve wondered how they can stay in business without it.

    But if Twitter does have ads, they should be clearly marked, not masqueraded behind some undesignated side bar.

  • Perhaps in time, Twitter will localize and monetize like they did with their Japan beta. went beta i April, complete with display ads –
    and Youtube-like ‘sponsored’ channels.

    Also, do the Election Bar and Hack the Debate link show up for Japanese users?

  • For me the Twitter site should not be tied to one particular countries politics, so I think that either the election bar should be removed or allow users to opt out of having to see the election bar.

    As for the advertising, I too have no problem with Twitter monetizing. The promotion element of the site is subtle and currently works for the site.

  • I think its a mistake not to geo-target such “promotions”. If Twitter wants an international community then use the information we’ve given in our profiles and stop showing US election “promotions” to non-US users.

    As an Australian its easy to feel left out of these US-based communities when they show too much “Americanism”.

  • So, everyone I’ve EVER met on Twitter in the last two years does, and /or teaches promotions, and for that matter buy or sells link space, and Twitter is under suspicion, as in ‘Hark! What goes on there?!’

    As far as I know, they simply teamed with Current TV, co-founded by Al Gore, to fulfill a dream of Jack, Evan, and Biz;
    To allow folks to interact, not just view media.

    They partnered to create a platform on which tweets showed up overlayed on the current ‘tv screen’, to expand the discussion.
    It also provided a pretty big, real time opinion poll for any interested.

    Lately, I’m losing heart, that some of the NOW biggest bloggers are becoming just like the main stream media they used to rue.

  • Add my name to that list of 50-60 (minus 2-3) – and I do live in the US. Although quite interested in following this race, I – like most tech-savvy people – know how and where to find my information. If I want to follow political writers on Twitter, I follow them. But that’s my choice. The election bar was not. I can only imagine how much more annoyed I would be by this Bar We Can’t Get Rid Of, if I lived outside the US.

    Monetization for twitter is reasonable for what they offer us. But disclosure = a good thing.

    Thanks for writing this – maybe someone with the number of people following you will get the right person’s attention.

  • By the way, the Election Bar ‘Close’ failure was not by design,
    but because of a bug. I believe a type of ajax conflict.

  • This US twitterer is sick of the political bar and all the political talk. I’m trying to get through until November so the people I follow can get back to tweeting things I enjoy following.

    As for the “promotion” or partnership or whatever, I’m curious to see how long it will be before the Almighty G rank spanks all of twitterland.

  • When will this ever end? We have enough mess in Twitter already

  • I honestly think that there is a bot of whining in this. We are all so used to getting apps, services and information for free that we complain about the slightest thing. Jeez, if they want to put a blurb on the site that they provide to use FOR FREE to use, then go for it.

  • That political bar drives me mad too, while interested in the election, I am not a US citizen & don’t have a vote. I don’t mind seeing it once but having to close it constantly is just wrong, why can’t they just implement simple cookie tracking so that if you close it you don’t have to look at it again?
    As for the sidebar ad, I think it should be made clear that it’s a paid advertisement.

  • or.. it national service from twitter, or perhaps they need to do so because goverment agency calling them to do so.. :D just a random thought.

  • I completely agree with you and I too am sick of seeing the political stuff popping up on there.

  • is a TV channel founded by Al Gore. They are doing this fun thing for debates, where tweets tagged #current are randomly plucked off of Twitter and displayed live on television during the debate. So when you click that link it takes you to Current’s site, which presumably includes the recorded debates for replay. I’d say it’s a mutual win for Twitter to get its tweets on the air and Current to have some fun with a new medium.

    I agree on the other stuff tho – that election bar should have been more US targeted and easier to remove.

    That many on Twitter are commenting on politics is just human nature, despite your commenter’s frustration with that. We talk about sports during the Olympics. We talk about cereal and pancakes in the morning.

  • Eric

    The only time I go to the “home” page on Twitter is when I (gasp!) take a long-enough break from being online that the update/posting plugin I use can’t catch up on enough missed tweets from the people I follow. That “home” page seems to be the only spot where the “class=promotion” sidebar shows up, so I don’t mind much. But the pesky election header shows up on user profile pages too, including those who make it known they hate the thing.

    There needs to be a method in the account preferences to disable those. Perhaps taking a hint from some of the other social sites: free accounts are sponsored by paid ads, user-paid accounts have an option to the remove them from their pages (and even those users’ views when they’re logged in).

    As someone who browses with an ad-blocking plugin, I just don’t see the plenty of passive sidebar ads (including Google’s). Ironically, these on Twitter are showing up and the option to *disable* them is broken, as are all the Twitter-function links (follow, favorite, delete, etc.) that are all served via third-party (google) apis. So the plugins work, stand-alone apps work, yet their page is creeping ever toward uselessness for me. It’s backfiring against them. Heh.

  • You can count me in as one more US Twitter person who is not only sick of the election bar, but also sick of all the election links that are being sent on Twitter. I went through last night and removed more than 200 people I was following, simple because all they were doing was posting links to election sites. It was driving me crazy!

    I mean, sure sending a link or two every day is okay, we all do it, but to just send link after link after link… that is just crazy! I checked out their profiles and ALL they had ever sent was links! Not once had they signed in on the Twitter home page to chat with other users.

    I always have Twitter open. If I’m online, I’m on Twitter, and I’m a full time Blogger, which means I’m online 18 hours a day. I check Twitter every 20 minutes or so to see if there’s anything interesting going on. If I see a conversation that sparks my interest, I jump in and start talking with them. Usually I click links from Twitter as a result of me talking with the person who sent the link. Rarely do I click links otherwise.

    You see, I’m not interested in the link, I’m interested in the person behind the link. I like to get to know them.

    Well, I see the election banner in the same way. I’m not on there having a conversation with the banner, so I have no interest in clicking on it’s links. It’s a waste of my time to bother with it.


  • I’m neutral. Neither of the actions mentioned have interfered with my actual use of twitter. I still use it the same way as I did before.

  • I think we need some disclosure here. Maybe they’ll hear us!


  • Hmm somehow I didn’t even notice it but I am getting annoyed by the American politics stuff that you can’t even opt out of.

  • you always write superb article.i salute you.

  • For the record:

    1) No, the link is not paid for. We thought, since many people were likely to watch the debates anyway, they may want to know about where they can watch it with a Twittery angle. (Current displays Twitters on the screen.) We just thought this was neat. Current is also linking to Twitter, but there is no money involved (or even a formal business deal). In fact, they didn’t even know we were going to do this.

    2) “promotion” is the CSS class we’re using to style that box. We’ve always called those deals in the sidebar “promos,” so that just made sense to whomever coded it up. We’ve never sold links (as of yet).

    3) The Election bar not staying away if you hit the X is a bug. Sorry about that, thought it was fixed. We don’t want to force anything on you you’ve said you don’t want to see.

    4) If you’re sick of hearing about the election and/or are not in the U.S., I apologize. If we’d had more time, we’d have limited who saw these promos. But this is all just off-the-cuff stuff. We figure the election is important enough — and so many people on Twitter are already talking about it — we want to support those conversations.

    But don’t worry — it’ll all be over soon! (I can’t guarantee, however, that we won’t point out other topics, sites, or Twitter account that we think a lot of people might be interested in — but that *you* may not be. Someday, some may even be paid for — but we’ll let you know.)

    Thanks for your feedback,

  • I’m sure twitter want take advantage of election fever but they also have to consider international user. I’m really sick with this. The failure of the world is the failure of the system export by please I’m really agree with Darren ..twitter focus with what you should focus on.

  • I am unaffected by the election bar..never really tripped on it….

  • I hate this election bar too.
    I’m not interested by the election and I expect not to see it again as soon as I click on “close”…

  • The US elections are interesting but not everyone is … well interested. While twitters base may be constituted by a large percentage of US citizens I’m sure they can work out a more subtle way of appealing to their US base without riling the rest of us.
    IP address based interfaces may do the trick

  • If it’s feel and smell like an advertisement, then it’s an advertisement. Who else don’t want to capitalize on the election traffic? May be not for political standing but the potential of monetization.

  • Darren,
    The link doesn’t need to have the nofollow attribute added to it because the link only appears on your private profile which can’t be crawled by search bots. Only your public profile gets crawled and the link doesn’t appear on that.

  • I think the Election Bar is an annoyance and should be removed. There are far too many pulse point topics going on in the world to simply narrow it down to one US item.

    If they are going to insist on putting these pulse point up then it should be a streaming ticker that rolls across the top and includes all ppt.

  • I have Twitter election.

  • I don’t feel that the election bar is a nuisance to me.

  • “they might want to ‘nofollow’ it or they might just find themselves penalized by Google for trying to game them”

    I don’t think Twitter needs to worry about their page rank and how high they come up in the search results. The whole model is orthogonal to search – it doesn’t really matter, I would think.

  • As a Brit, I’m not really a big fan of reading the “Twitter Election” thingy.

    I didn’t care much of it on plurk either. However, with plurk they allowed you to close the tab, it was hidden away at the bottom of the screen, and it remembered your settings. The only way you’d know about it is like with me if you appeared on the US Election feed accidentally, and get a bunch of Obama/McCain haters flaming you (I mentioned that I was watching a documentary on Michael Palin – it picked up on the word “Palin”). :S

    Change it to a Premiership Football ticker debate, then I’m interested ;)