On 13 April, Mint profiled Vinayak Sharma, a young man from Rajasthan.
Because, as the introduction to that piece said, “the story of @VinayakSharma19, 17 years and 6 months old, is also story of a get paid-to-tweet cottage industry which has sprung up on Twitter.”
In other words, this was a piece on a cog in the wheel that helps create Twitter Trends, something that is increasingly figuring among the objectives of marketers.
As the story explained:
It’s the story of @VinayakSharma19, who is just a kid. Not even 18 yet. 17 years and 6 months old, to be precise. But a kid who believes he is an influencer in the online world. This is also the story of a surreptitious, thriving, get-paid-to-tweet, cottage industry which has sprung up on the micro-blogging network. A world where companies pay money to a whole host of individuals to generate conversation, engagement and hopefully, trends, all without the “promoted tweets” disclaimer. The story (you can read it here ) was published and duly went viral as stories of this nature do.
But the repercussions for @VinayakSharma19 have been bad. The brands and agencies that paid him to tweet are angry with him. Some have blacklisted him. Others have blocked him. Some of the agencies have even threatened him. “Why did you give our names? Call the journalist and remove the hashtags and client names,” they have been asking (according to him). Vinayak has responded by sort of losing it (who wouldn’t, and he is, in some ways, just a boy), and deleting his Twitter account.
Their actions only show that their business model is built around what can only be called sneakiness—passing off sponsored and promoted tweets as spontaneous 140-character creations of some anonymous Twitter user. That reinforces the larger point of the Mint story, although it is a pity that the brands and agencies have chosen to take it out on young Vinayak instead of picking someone their own size.
Over the next few days, Mint will have follow-ups on how these agencies work, and the response of the good folks at Twitter.
Addendum to this addendum:
@VinayakSharma19 is back on Twitter. He reactivated his account late on 13 April.