Free for a tweet? Ummmmm….

I’ve noticed a new marketing trend lately.

We’re all accustomed to marketers offering something free — an ebook, a white paper, a useful template or sales tool — in exchange for your email address on their mailing list. That technique is growing less useful for marketers; people have learned to sign up, get the freebie, and immediately unsubscribe from the list.

Recently, though, marketers are taking a new tack: the information is free to download if you send a tweet about it to your list or share it on Facebook.

Don't click on this. Really. It's just an illustration.

On the face of it, the “free for a tweet” idea makes a kind of sense. The marketer isn’t asking for your email address, and you don’t have to remember to unsubscribe. But I still have serious reservations and simply won’t take part. Here’s why.

1. I’m putting my name behind an unknown product

When you ask me to send a tweet to my list or share with my Facebook contacts, you are asking me to recommend your product sight unseen. Right offhand, I can think of two people who have that level of trust with me. (Naomi Dunford and the artist formerly known as Rachael Acklin, in case you are interested. Neither has ever asked me for a tweet in exchange for a product.)

I’d actually much rather give you an email address, download your product, and begin to build an opinion of you and your work. Assuming you are using aWeber, MailChimp, or a similar service that requires a double opt-in, I know you aren’t going to spam me and I know I can easily opt out if your offerings aren’t what I need.

2. Facebook? You stepped in what?

Yes, I have a Facebook account. I also have a deep aversion to the way that Facebook repeatedly abuses their users’ privacy settings. Under their current Frictionless Sharing model, “everywhere you go, everything you do is being sent back to your Facebook friends and stored on company servers” (PCWorld, September 26, 2011)

I won’t do it. That’s all. I don’t care how good you are.

Why not offer a choice?

To get your information into the largest number of hands, to help create the largest number of new followers and fans, give your readers the choice of email signup or “free for a tweet.”

It’s just good business.