Yesterday, IZEA launched a service called Sponsored Tweets, which allows advertiser to pay well followed Twitter users, such as reality show star Kendra Wilkinson, comedian Carrot Top and web celebrity Chris Pirillo, to send sponsored tweets out about their product or service.  In a lesson undoubtedly learned from the controversy around another IZEA product, PayPerPost, IZEA is requiring that all tweets sent through their network be clearly marked as sponsored.

Undoubtedly Sponsored Tweets, and other similar services, will cause a lot of hand ringing in the Twittosphere.  Since the service requires clear disclosure, I really have trouble getting that worked up about it. 

However, I do think the service highlights some murkiness about what does and does not need to be disclosed on Twitter.  I see tweets every day from people promoting their work/employer/client without a disclosure.  Indeed, I’ve sent tweets myself where I haven’t clearly disclosed my involvement in the topic I’m tweeting about.  Twitter’s immediacy and brevity make it really difficult to know when and what you should disclose.

Here are a couple of scenarios I might face, where I’m honestly not sure whether to disclose or not:

(1) If you retweet content from an employer or client blog, should you disclose the relationship?  I occasionally do this and never disclose it, and neither does anyway else from what I can tell.  Should I?

(2) If you send a promotional tweet about an employer or client initiative, should you make a disclosure?  For me the example might be a tweet I send from my personal Twitter account about a client website I launch.  I typically disclose the client relationship, but I have no doubt I haven’t been consistent in doing.  Every day I see examples of consultants using there personal Twitter accounts to promote client work with no disclosure.  Is this wrong? 

(3) If I state a personal opinion about an issue or subject that I have some financial interest in, should I disclose the relationship?  This one doesn’t really come up for me that often as I tend to avoid sharing my opinion about client related topics on my personal Twitter account, but I see others walk this tightrope all the time.  Joe Trippi recently got in trouble for vocally  supporting New York Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney without disclosing that she was a client.  When should and shouldn’t you disclose?

With blogging, I think we all eventually figured things out and now most of us  instinctively know when we need to disclose and when we don’t.  Blogging is also fundamentally different, as when you read a blog post in the context of a website you can quickly click to an About page or a disclosure policy.  Tweets don’t provide people with the same kind of context as a blog post does.  More importantly, the 140 character limit on Twitter simply doesn’t provide you with the space to do a proper disclosure many times.  Note: some have called for a disclosure character as a way of addressing this problem. 

At this point Twitter is the Wild West and no one of really knows what the rules are when it comes to disclosure.  I personally think we need some as I struggle to walk the tight rope myself.

What do you think?  Has someone developed a set of rules that I’m missing?

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.