On Ambrosia Software's Tweetspam

Monday, 2010-04-05; 13:56:46

Last July, I interviewed Andrew Welch, President of Ambrosia Software, Inc., regarding the “Tweetblast” that MacHeist used to promote its software bundle. Twitter users would post a specifically crafted tweet to their followers, in exchange for some free software from MacHeist. This is what Welch had to say:

I do think that the Tweetblast was somewhat of an abuse of the power of Twitter.


If you want to ask me the real question, that is, would Ambrosia do something like this on our own to promote our products, the answer is no. We would not. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Fast forward to today, about eight months later, here’s Ambrosia’s website:

Ambrosia Tweetblast Promotion

This makes me angry for a number of reasons.

First, and most obviously, Ambrosia’s new promotion is a direct contradiction of what Welch said eight months ago. I realize that there was no promise that they wouldn’t re-evaluate their priorities and do it in the future, nor was there a specific timeframe qualifier. It’s Ambrosia’s prerogative to promote their products however they want. But it’s my prerogative to be annoyed at sleazy, spammy marketing tactics.

Second and more importantly, though, is that Ambrosia learned absolutely nothing about the MacHeist Tweetblast promotion, and Welch in particular seemed to learn absolutely nothing from my interview with him. Here’s what I said then:

Well, in any case, that situation is also different because it’s someone organically telling someone about another product. It’s not Mary Kay directing to this person exactly how and when to say it, and offering goods in return.

I mean, I would be far more charitable to the TweetBlast if, at the very least, there was a way for them to accept any form of tweet as long as it mentioned “MacHeist” and “Delicious Library 2”, and not a specifically crafted tweet.

Go back to Ambrosia’s promo page for the Tweetblast. You first have to follow @AmbrosiaSW on Twitter. Then, if you click on the link in Step 2, you are taken to the Twitter homepage where a specifically crafted tweet is entered for you on your timeline.


Welch said that this is no different from a friend periodically asking him if he is interested in Mary Kay products. I beg to differ. This is like having Mary Kay tell dozens of your friends to ask you all at once, using Mary Kay’s specifically-crafted promotion language, to go buy some of their products. It’s so fucking obnoxious.

But here’s the real kicker: Ambrosia actively flouts Twitter’s efforts to combat this type of spam.

Back in November, Twitter introduced their own native retweet feature. While I despise retweeting for the exact same reasons that I despise Tweetspamming, it does have one redeeming aspect: if a bunch of people you follow on Twitter retweet the same tweet, it only shows up once in your timeline. That’s awesome. At maximum, I’ll get a single spammy tweet for a promotion if people use the retweet feature.

But no, what does Ambrosia’s website ask you to do? It gives you a link that does not use the retweet feature. Basically, Ambrosia is asking you to get around a really nice antispam feature of Twitter. If you go to Ambrosia’s Twitter account page, there is no tweet advertising the promotion that you can retweet, and still be entered into the contest to get the iPad.

Why is Ambrosia doing this? Simple. Because it gets more eyeballs to their pages. The more times you see tweetspam in your timeline that advertises Ambrosia’s products, the more sales they get. It’s sleazy marketing at its best.

Dan Wood asks on Twitter if there’s “some approach to this general idea that wouldn’t be so annoying”. Yes, there is. I had already explained this to Welch directly, but apparently it didn’t sink in, so I guess I have to repeat myself.

Here’s how you can do an effective, non-annoying tweetblast promotion:

  1. FUCKING USE THE FUCKING SEARCH APIs. Seriously, the search APIs for Twitter have been around for over a year. Let people craft a tweet in whatever way they want, as long as they include specific words. In Ambrosia’s case, they can mandate that the words “@AmbrosiaSW” and “iPad giveaway” are mentioned in a tweet. If they are, you’re entered in the contest. Yes, this means that you’ll have to allow entries that say “@AmbrosiaSW’s Tweetblast for their iPad giveaway is fucking obnoxious”, but them’s the fucking breaks when you want to do non-invasive marketing.

  2. DO NOT GIVE OUT A LINK THAT FILLS IN PEOPLE’S TWITTER STATUS FOR THEM. Don’t fucking do it. Just don’t. If people really want that fucking iPad, they can go and exercise their little spammy fingers for 140 characters in their own way. Filling in people’s status for them just encourages laziness: people will just tweet what you put in for them.

  3. ENCOURAGE USE OF THE RETWEET FEATURE. Allow entries that are retweets of someone else’s valid entries to the contest. That way, people who don’t give a flying fuck about your iPad promotion will only see the spam once.

To those who feel the need to spam Twitter in order to get an iPad or whatever the next tweetspam-du-jour prize is, I recommend this: make a dedicated Twitter account for tweetspam. Who cares if no one is following that account? You’ll satisfy the contest requirements, you’ll get your shot at whatever it is that turns you into a sleazy pawn of a company’s marketing department, and you won’t annoy anybody. KTHXBAI!

Moral of the story: even a seemingly-upstanding company like Ambrosia eventually sinks down to sleazy tactics, and the credibility of Andrew Welch has been damaged. I am seriously re-evaluating whether I will buy any Ambrosia products in the future.

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