Late last year, I knocked out a little facebook app that pushed a random status message into your facebook account. I used it as an excuse to learn about the API. It was particularly good because it’s one thing to simply put content up into facebook. It’s another thing to update a user’s status. I got to the idea by way of suggestinon from my buddy, John Szeder. He wanted his status to update without having to log in.
For many months, my little app didn’t do that, exactly. You still had to log in, click into the app and then click a submit button. I knew exactly how to make it automatic, but I let myself be lazy. I thought that if a user never came to use my app, he would never think about my app or see a bit of advertisement. Although I have no expectations that this app will generate real revenue, it’s fun to pretend it might. It’s good practice.
I should take a second here to reveal a “secret”. It’s not really a secret, because it’s easy to find if you want. I’ll tell you now. You can learn a lot of good ideas if you pay attention to Steve Gillmor and his Gillmor Gang. I have had the fortune of having discovered him about three years ago, plus I have a 35-minute commute that gives me a ample time to listen to the podcasts. Sometimes the ideas shared on the show simply spark my imagination. This time they gave me an idea I could use.
The particular idea was that every message on Twitter is an advertisement. As is typical with a Gillmorism, the metaphorical nature of this idea encourages you to leave your dictionary on your desk. Steve went for at least a year straight saying that MS Office was dead. It’s not that it makes no money. It’s not that no one uses it. It’s just that it’s headed for anilation, but hardly anyone has noticed yet.
So, don’t try to take this too literally. A tweet is not a billboard shouting at you about cigarettes that you don’t care to smell, much less smoke. Twitter is a medium for transmitting ideas that you might be interested. It’s smart because it allows you to opt in for those ideas. You’re smart because you chose emitters that you hope will send the type of ideas you’re interested in.
If a tweet is an adverstisement, then so is a facebook status. I’m already funneling all of my tweets into my facebook status. Therefore, they are the same thing. Most people are using the status messages to advertise to their friends the trivia of what they are doing. Some people use them to share links. I’m using them to send people to a random Amazon search on the off chance it will be amusing and they will buy something.
Granted, it’s a fine line. I think my weird, random status messages are interesting. So do about 15 other people (right now). Maybe their friends like it. Maybe their friends find it annoying. Maybe those people like that their friends find it annoying. If I were pushing 20th century shout-style ads, I bet people would be angry.