Twitter Ads App Throws Its Neck On Chopping Block

What would you do if you were a third party developer who was thriving financially while in flagrant violation of Twitter’s API rules?

If you were the founder of Followgen, you’d out yourself and see how it all shook out . . . after making a bundle of dough, of course.

Miles Recny admits that his app, Followgen, directly cannibalizes Twitter’s Ads revenue model and does so on Twitter’s very own platform. Why is he admitting this? It seems he’s trying to prevent his app’s inevitable demise – or, at the very least, he’s attempting to will it to happen with some measure of predictability (one of those).

In a post titled Twitter Should Shut Me Down, Recny shares why.

But first some background on the app: It “programatically” favorites people’s tweets, in the hopes they’ll see the notification and then decide to follow the person favoriting their tweet. This apparently works very well, FYI (when targeted – please don’t start favoriting things all wily nily).

Recny added audience targeting and added charts to track efforts and then sales apparently took off. He was careful to stay within Twitter’s ‘per IP address’ rate limits and all was good with the world. And now to Recny’s blog post outing himself:

When Twitter released its Ads API, I had an epiphany. My company was a Twitter Ads product! Rather than serving promoted tweets, or promoted accounts as impressions, I was serving targeted favorites. I’d re-invented the impression as a one-to-one social action. I built a campaign dashboard to reflect this new perspective, and the product started doing better than ever.

My data showed that the cost of a real, targeted follower on my platform was about 12 cents, versus $2.50 on Twitter Ads. According to my customers (a mix of brands and individuals) the targeting and analytics was better too. I built an API, and then a white-label version of the product, forming partnerships with other businesses.

The elephant in the room, whose deafening footsteps I’d been trying to ignore, was my relationship with Twitter and its revenue model. Surely, I was in violation of the terms of service. I noticed new customers sending me messages like “this is so much better than Twitter Ads”. Gulp.

I’ve tried to get in contact with Twitter. My hope is to get access to their Ads API, and start making money for both of us. I fully expect that they will shut me down, but I just can’t get a meeting. It’s ironic that when you want to get caught, you can’t.

And now, VentureBeat reports, Twitter is, in fact, “in talks with Recny.”

“Twitter reached out to me, as has the ad team at one of the other big social networks, and we’re trying to work something out,” Recny said today, in an interview with VentureBeat.

“It’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster. I’ve been having uncertainty whether what I was doing was white hat or black hat in regards to Twitter’s Terms of Service,” said Recny.

Do you think Twitter will agree to continue allowing him to “make money for both companies” or is this app kaput?

(Image from Shutterstock)

@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.
Publish date: April 29, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT