TwitvidTwitVid, Twitter’s hosting service, launched a new product this week called SocialAds. The goal of SocialAds is straightforward—it is to get you (or your brand) more Twitter followers and/or retweets of your advertisements. In other words, the service in essence allows you to buy Twitter followers and retweets.

Buy your Twitter audience?  That, to me flies in the face of the original spirit and intent of Twitter which was about freely conversing with people with whom you shared a common interest.  Buying a Twitter audience harks back to the mass media days when we bought impressions for the privilege of broadcasting our advertisement.

This is how SocialAds work.  You create your account and then setup an ad campaign.  The ad campaign will focus on obtaining new followers or retweeting your ad  The ads themselves are displayed within videos hosted by TwitVid . You pay only when the desired action is complete.

The bidding begins at $1US dollar per follower and $.75 per retweet.  Whoever is the higher bidder will receive better placement.

According to TwitVid, participating brands can receive more than 400 new followers in less than an hour.  Their statistics also show that 2% of the viewers who are shown an ad will then follow the brand.  However, there are no numbers which can guarantee that those followers will remain connected with the brand after a month and beyond.

This feels like advertising to me.  This feels like the old world.

What is equally troubling is it appears that Twitter is considering offering the same kind of product.  If you want more people reading your tweets, Twitter may offer you additional followers for a price.  Think of it as a “Promoted Tweeter” product, which is designed to bump up follower numbers for your account.

It is still unclear what the Twitter product will look like.  Some believe that Twitter will charge users based on the number of followers they acquire.  Others believe that Twitter will create a product where the client is charged simply on the amount of exposure their Twitter account receives.

If indeed Twitter does develop products like these, it will represent an enormous strategic shift for the company.  Since its early days, Twitter has frowned upon third-party companies who promise to build up follower counts automatically.

My first question is why the change of heart on the part of Twitter?  My second question is for the potential clients.  If you are going to ‘buy’ followers, the obvious question is how much is a follower actually worth to you?  How do you quantify this?  Without understanding this, I would think long and hard before investing money in some of the programs discussed in this article.