I rarely laugh out loud while scrolling through Twitter anymore. When I do, it’s almost always at a promoted tweet.
Promoted tweets, which are written by social media managers or marketing people for brands, are sometimes very boring. Sometimes they are just coupon codes for Nike or suggestions as to where you might purchase new car insurance. Sometimes though, they’re incredible non-sequiturs, begrudgingly written, and yet hilarious.
I’m not talking about tweets from the official Denny’s or Chipotle accounts, which are constantly trying to make me laugh because someone told them the way to a Millennial’s heart is through their lols. I’m also not talking about Donald Trump campaign ads, which — while absurdist — do not make me happy. And I am definitely not talking about promoted tweets that encourage people like my coworker Rich McCormick to join scientology.
I’m talking about run-of-the-mill brand tweets. The ones written by entry-level copywriters who have to churn out 75 pieces of 140-character promotional content per day.
It’s hard to say why I like promoted tweets so much, but I think at least part of it is that they’re clearly labeled. They are blatantly selling something. They are openly thirsty. Their writers crave engagement and you can bet your butt they’re going to look up how many “impressions” this tweet got and report that figure to a superior.
Whenever I tweet I too am selling something; I too am thirsty; I too crave engagement; and I too look up how many “impressions” my tweet got and report that figure to the evil Joan Cusack-lookalike who lives in my brain and won’t stop screaming at me about how unfunny I am and how rarely I wash my sheets.
I do not say any of this when I post a tweet. I let you think I’m doing it for you. I’m a liar.
Promoted tweets are presumably generated for you based on the wealth of data Twitter and Google and Facebook and the US government and probably the webmaster of Martha Stewart’s blog have collected about your internet behaviors. If you get something truly bizarre, you might think it’s just good luck. But in reality, the algorithms that feed you promoted tweets just know you as intimately as your browser history knows you — which is to say very, very well. I get tweets that make me laugh because Twitter is familiar with every data point of my personality and has made a note that I think kids comedy is A-plus and I enjoy discussing Cheeto products.
I’m not the only person who loves promoted tweets. A simple search pulls up tons of PT fans (or at least, eager observants).
No offense, but promoted tweets are funnier than you, me, all of us. They are, yes, technically written by human beings. But as tiny, weird bursts of ruthlessly capitalist content created for consumption by any audience, they seem to be written by the internet itself. I love them.
Here’s a poem I wrote about promoted tweets:
for your honesty