Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Target Buys Black Friday From Twitter–But Wal-Mart Gets Justin Bieber

You don’t have to go near a big-box store or an e-commerce site today to watch a Black Friday brawl. Just head to Twitter.

Once you’re there, you’ll see that “Black Friday” is the day’s Promoted Trend. And if you click on the term, you’ll see that Target has purchased the phrase for the day. Which means that anyone who clicks through will see this ad/Tweet:

And then lots of other Twitter chatter about Target.

Don’t know what Target paid for the privilege, but it seems like a reasonably good way to deploy marketing money.

Except! Scan down the list of the day’s other top trends–the phrases that Twitter doesn’t sell, but are based on whatever Twitterers are Tweeting about–and you’ll see that Wal-Mart makes the list, too. How’d that happen?

Twitter PR tells me that “Walmart=organic.” Which is pretty funny to type, but not exactly true.

Because I’m pretty sure the reason that Wal-Mart is a trending topic today is that Justin Bieber, who has more than six million followers on Twitter, Tweeted about it:

So that’s not the same as “Wal-Mart” simply bubbling up because lots of Twitter users are talking about it without prompting.

There’s almost certainly a commercial relationship between Bieber (or, more likely, Universal Music Group, his label) and Wal-Mart. And that’s why Bieber (or, more likely, someone he pays to type out Tweets) is Tweeting about Wal-Mart instead of Target or Best Buy or… what other stores still sell music these days?

But since Twitter itself isn’t making money off  the transaction, the Twitter folks can count it as “organic.”

Question for another time: If Justin Bieber–or his label, or Wal-Mart–is going to use Twitter to advertise goods and services, why doesn’t Twitter make money from that?


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik