I hope this wasn’t the Obama social media strategists who suggested Vogue to jump on the sponsored tweets wagon. This morning while browsing my tweets I discovered this message coming from @VogueUSA account and advertising not a luxury brand, but TUNA:

My first reaction was to think it’s a spam and that Vogue account has been hacked. I looked at brand’s twitter account and found these older sponsored tweets for Psychic services, mall maps and custom backgrounds…At this point I realized this is no mistake, which lead me to look for Vogue’s profile on SponsoredTweets.com. What I discovered was pretty shocking – according to the site, for $50 only anyone could send a sponsored tweet to the almost 20,000 people following Vogue on Twitter.

I wonder of this was a naive mistake done by an intern/assistant/agency/social media “expert” or someone else, who thought Vogue should explore the new social media channels for monetization (which is a great intent), unfortunately this case just proves us how easy it is to make mistakes in unknown territory. This example could teach other brands to think twice and do some background check before they let anyone advise on their social media strategy.

The brand damage of seeing the great American publication right below the reality star Roxy Olin (who charges x3 for her tweets, by the way) offering itself for sale, cannot be fixed easily. Not to mention Vogue’s current advertisers who pay tens thousands dollars to be associated with the publication on its pages- how would they feel knowing you can buy a tweet for $50?…

I hope the social media experts at Vogue will reconsider their strategy soon, and focus on making their brand more social first, before they try to make a quick buck on advertising tuna to their Twitter followers…

Update: I assumed @VogueUSA was the official Vogue account since it was registered at SponsoredTweets.com as such, had a large following and has been posting the actual Vogue content. If this story will uncover otherwise (that someone actually used Vogue’s brand name to their advantage), in addition to brand damage and delusion the great American fashion publication will also have to face the consequences of improper brand monitoring on social media platforms.

Update 03/04/2010: @VogueUSA account has been just deleted after Conde Nast Executive Director of Public Relations Susan Portnoy’s notice:

It took more than 8 months for Vogue to notice the fake account, which was active on Twitter since June 30, 2009, gained almost 20,000 followers, was frequently sent @ tweets and questions by followers, and #FollowFriday mentions.

Although the story about sponsored tuna wasn’t real, there is still a lesson in social media we can learn from Vogue: Just because you are not using it, it doesn’t mean people don’t talk about your brand or inappropriately use your brand name. Even if you don’t have the resources to actively engage in social media, you can’t afford ignoring it. Monitoring is the first and most essential step a brand should make into social media, and I’m glad the fashion Bible has finally done it.