Paid Tweets are a Gray Area for Athletes and Celebrities

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Earlier this month, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick tweeted: "Check these prizes from the McDonald's monopoly game," and included a link.

Next to the tweet it said "spon," which I assume meant sponsored. So I called up McDonald's and asked them if they were now sponsoring Michael Vick. The answer was no.

Confused, I started to poke around and found my answer.

McDonald's, it turns out is a client of MyLikes, a social media advertising platform that claims that it has gotten more than 29 million clicks thanks to placing the links of its clients onto the pages of influencers. Other clients, according to its Web page, include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Axe, Wheat Thins, NBC Universal and 1-800-Flowers.

When I went back to McDonald's, they admitted they were a client of MyLikes and said that they were experimenting with the platform.

Influencers like Vick get paid for their tweets, but what about McDonald's? Do they know what celebrities are tweeting out their links? I assume they didn't since confusion ensued when I originally asked if Vick and the brand were associated. That's a problem if a social media company just guarantees clicks and doesn't tell the client who is tweeting. In the case of Vick, he's a potentially controversial figure and once he blatantly tweets about a promotional campaign, it's assumed that he's a part of your brand. MyLikes, founded by ex-Google employees, did not return calls seeking comment about the company's strategy.

Last night, Vick was pushing another product. "Looking at Thanksgiving recipes on @Chobani Kitchen site!" The reaction on Twitter was priceless.

@bigspence64 wrote: Really Vick, can you even cook?

@PhllyPhan wrote: Dude, I'd rather you look at recipes to carve up Dallas secondary Sunday night!

Influencers help companies get extra clicks. But how much are those clicks worth if a company might not want to be associated with that celebrity? And how much are those clicks worth if the celebrity is turning into a shill tweeting out brands that don't fit them just for a quick buck?

UPDATE: Bindu Reddy, CEO and Co-Founder, of MyLikes called me to address the company's strategy. She told me that the idea of the company is to allow people who are creating content to make money off their audience on Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube. When I specifically questioned her about the authenticity of the Mike Vick/Chobani tweet, she said that her company does have the technology to specifically match up celebrities with brands. Chobani was trying to target women making their Thanksgiving meal. "Mike Vick definitely was not a match," Reddy said. "It was tweeted by mistake." Reddy said Vick wouldn't have made much money off of it because the company pays based on clicks and the quality of clicks (how much time was spent on the Web site and if anything was purchased).


Questions? Comments?