Are you a social media user, or are you a platform for someone else’s app?
California state legislator Das Williams has signed on with the communication management service Constant Contact; it’s written all over his social media presence. The company offers its paid users the option of automatically posting copies of e-mails online and linking to those e-mails through automated posts to Twitter. But with every automatic Twitter post, Constant Contact has added the hashtag #constantcontact in bold blue. People clicking on the hashtag won’t be taken to Das Williams’ messages; instead, they’ll be taken to a separate Twitter page with an advertisement for Constant Contact on top.
Rep. Michael Schraa of Wisconsin hasn’t posted to his Twitter account since July 9 of this year. Nevertheless, he has posts on Twitter — automatic posts that say little good about Rep. Schraa (he has mild turnover among followers), highlight his substantive absence, and advertise for a private company — the automated Twitter metric generator fllwrs.
Rep. Schraa’s experience with fllwrs may not be unique. Google autocomplete indicates that the most common searches associated with fllwrs are “fllwrs unsubscribe” and “fllwrs stop.” Those who are unable to stop their accounts’ association with fllwrs will continue to be billboards for the company, which in turn posts advertisements on its website to monetize its work.
Twitter is a medium through which people can communicate. If they’re not careful, however, people can be transformed into a medium through which companies advertise. Users can be used.