I am very liberal (🤪) when it comes to blocking advertisements and annoying corporate accounts on Twitter. Among the brands whose advertisements have irritated me to the point of getting the block are:
Amazon Prime Video
and like 10 various brands promoting weight loss meals or plans or supplements or what have you.
I cannot recall exactly why these brands have merited a block, aside from one particularly unrelenting targeted viral ad campaign by Wendy’s in maybe 2016. But for the most part, each block goes similarly: I get a “sponsored tweet” on Twitter, I get annoyed, and then I prevent my timeline from being disturbed again by blocking the account of the advertiser.
It’s very easy, and yet, I’ve found myself being haunted by one phantom advertiser that, until recently, I had no idea was an advertiser in the first place!
Maybe I am silly. Maybe I was just holding onto the lie that is purely viral tweets, a corner of Twitter that isn’t a reflection of the pandemic and racism and state violence and the climate crisis. But for months I have seen these tweets promoting something called an “Ocean Galaxy Light,” shared at the end of a thread that begins with a seemingly-random viral tweet.
For years, it was common for viral tweeters to promote themselves or their family or friends’ work after gaining Twitter virality. And then in the past year or two, I noticed people tweeting out their CashApp and Venmo handles in lieu of having a hustle to promote. And then these tweets turned into calls for action, with people sharing petitions and crowdfunding pages for the victims of police brutality.
And so even though I occasionally saw these tweets for the “Ocean Galaxy Light,” I just thought, oh, that’s a weird thing to promote, but sure, you see everything on this app, why not a random plug for a room light that you enjoy.
Until it dawned on me yesterday, while seeing another viral tweet with an “Ocean Galaxy Light” tweet attached, that the people I’ve seen tweeting about these lights have quite possibly never actually purchased them. These might not be their room lights! Because this is all just an advertising scheme! Hidden as a trailing tag on a viral tweet! Oh, my goodwill, shielding me from what was right in front of my eyes all along!
To be clear, this is no condemnation of the people getting paid to turn their viral tweets into ads — get your money, NBD. BUT in my light googling to find how these deals are going down, I learned from Bloomberg that “Ocean Galaxy Light” pays $20-$60 per tweet, targeting the folks who go viral. The lights cost $50; according to Bloomberg, the company that makes the lights typically gets about three to four light sales from each post. In July, the Ocean Galaxy Light people reportedly made $7,000 to $8,000 off Twitter alone. For every person getting theirs, this company is potentially getting hundreds of times as many.
This all brings me to wonder, how many viral tweets have come across my feed with the express intention of selling me “Ocean Galaxy Light” products, or silly putty that picks up all the grime in my car, or a sink strainer (??????) How many more products have I seen advertised to me via a viral tweet that I haven’t realized are advertisements?? How close is this thing to becoming another “tweetdecking” operation all over again??? Is everything I thought I knew about the economy of viral tweets all a lie????
Who is to say. What I do know is that I will be muting the phrase “oceangalaxylight” on Twitter for the foreseeable future.
Photo via Ocean Galaxy Light, Screenshots via Twitter; Remix by Samantha Grasso